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BrokenRoots: SF’s Project Homeless Connect

The day breaks sunny and nippy in San Francisco and the wind is already whipping around Polk Street, in front of City Hall and down past the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium as the first Project Homeless Connect volunteer coordinators enter the auditorium prior to 7 AM. Just before midnight, the news is that some 2200 homeless showed up for services today. Final tallies are not yet published.

The mission of Project Homeless ConnectTM (PHC) is to connect San Francisco’s homeless with the system of care that will help them move off the streets and into housing.

Liveblogging Bioneers: Lunchbreak Edition

Note: Much of this diary is notes taken directly from speakers … Some powerful stuff here …

Just back from listening to Michael Pollan and Sarah James (notes to be transcribed later) but reporting now on the incredible talk by Jack Hildary …

The day began with Kenny Ausubel, Nina Simons and Brock Dolman …. Liz Cunningham ..

Kenny’s Messaage: “It’s 2020 or bust”

Jack says its 2-degrees to 2-degrees! Astounding. Just astounding stuff!

Jack Hildary

Jack Hidary says a few weeks back he was bombarded with emails, tweets, phone messages and FaceBook contacts, all informing him that an electric car is now being featured in the catalog of all catalogs:  Neiman Marcus!

“Neiman Marcus has recognized that electric cars are here. I’m very excited. I begin to open all tweets and emails and text messages. I find the electric car in the Neiman Marcus catalog is a  ….cupcake. Light and fluffy. …. Two years before on the Playo at Burning Man I was distracted by 3-foot high movement. I look, I turn I first see a blueberry, then a second then a third…. The prototype of the electric vehicle. The Muffin mobile….”

Electric cars?  What’s the reality of the energy revolution today? What is the reality of solar wind? Lets take a status

Stats: 250 million cars in America; in world there are 800 million; we have 30% of the cars in world.

GV will not reach 5% of US fleet before 2030.

Obama admin  goal of 1 million PHEVs (plug in hybrid vehicle)by 2015 will only represent .4% penetration

Need a different approach. We are not on a pathway to sufficient change over, We are not there. How can we get there?

China currently has 65 million cars; 1.3 billion people in China and we are on the way to 300 million vehicles in next 6-7 years.

We must take hold of reality if we want to change this future

Energy.  Where is our solar, where is our wind? We all know there is more solar energy available  in 70 minutes than we need for entire year. Where is all the solar?

US  produces 371,000 megawatt hours of energy every year  How much is solar?  Solar = 108 megawatt hours

How can we change this?  

2 degrees for 2 degrees Nant’an

Milgram’s 1967  experiment  “Six degrees of separation” actually found that we are only separated by 4 degrees. It was changed to six by a playwright  because it sounded better …. It’s a play, it’s a movie. Voila.

Are we still in a world of 4 or 5 degrees? Let’s use Facebook as a Proxy

Users in 2007:  80 million, today: 300 million

One of the most significant things that has changed is that the number of friends people have has gone up, with the average number of friends at around 120 . Meaning that it is likely that within your group of 120 friends there is one friend who is “super connector.”

“We are probably moving to 2 degrees of separation.”

Facebook’s “Suggested Friends” got better, looking at many more variables  to suggest friends for you so more people started connecting. It is now all about “search and discovery, “we have networks but these tools are accelerating. We are accelerating towards each other faster and faster. The mathematics is there!”

But this is not happening uniformly. There are communities at 2 degrees in Brooklyn, New York;   Everyone knows everybody.

In Washington, DC  because of influx of people following the campaign  the estimate is 3 degrees. Here in Northern California communities no more than 4 degrees. Each of these communities is moving towards 2 degrees at different rates.

“What can we do with this 2-degree universe that we could not do before?”

He suggests a scenario of a fender bender en route to work. The hostility, frustration, inconvenience. Accusations. Involvement of the police, insurance companies … but  then …

“What if …… we might have an application that doesn’t exist but will probably exist by the end of this lecture and the application will buzz, it will say you have 2 mutual friends with this individual. You are connected and you are probably both going to Bobby’s birthday party on Friday.

In the 30 seconds it takes for me to walk over to this guy,  the entire interaction has changed. Forget the police,  I walk away, call over my shoulder “I’ll see you at the birthday party.”

When we think about changing energy it costs money and some of us might not have the money needed, so we need to find a scalable way to make this happen.

Enter the birth of in Berkeley, CA. the idea of a new bond with the proceeds of that bond going to people in the community so that they could install solar and retrofit homes and businesses.

Lets take this national! is now in  15 states in 6 months. Another 10 states are in the works.

“Your county will have ability to give you a low cost loan you will have 20 years to pay back.”

“This is the scale we have been waiting for.  This can change everything. But the loans alone will not do it. 2 for 2 means we are now more connected, each one of us sitting here today, all the other places where you are watching. We have ability to change things in a much bigger way.”

When you think PACE think about people you do not know as well …

Is PACE happening in your state? Are there low cost loans available now to make the difference?”

“Financial tools as important as solar and wind.”

You could put the charging stations in your vehicle, house, shopping center, We can actually make this happen

It all comes back to the Playa.

“We each can be leaders, now I have the tools; I have the tools to create a 2- degree universe. We are hurling towards each other. The technology and the tools are there. Do not wait!”

“Yes, we should continue conventional models of activism, but we must take it to another level, we cannot wait for government. The scale and the pace are not happening. WE NEED PACE TO PICK UP THE PACE.”

“We are now in a new 2 degree universe let us use to avoid those next 2 degrees in temperature.”

Why here, Why Now?

There has never been a more            time in the history of our planet to find the solutions to such critical environmental and social issues. The Earth could reach an irreversible tipping point in less than a decade unless we quickly change our ways, according to NASA climate scientist James Hansen.

Proven by how much attention the recently released film Food, Inc., and other social and environmental indictments like it earn, the masses are starting to ask themselves what they can do to make a difference.

Bioneers goes beyond the dialogue and inspires, educates and calls people to action. From water security to social justice, from green building to green collar jobs, Bioneers mobilizes citizens across the globe by offering them the tools, resources, and inspiration to be catalysts for change in their own communities to reverse the damage before it is too late.

For the past 20 years, Bioneers has been a hub of breakthrough solutions and leading-edge ideas that celebrate the genius of nature and human creativity to create a healthy planet. The organization recognizes that the work never stops and the need for solutions to critical issues is infinite. To that end, Bioneers will continue to inspire and connect experts across the globe with everyday citizens, and spread the gospel that each person can be a change-maker for a better world.

Through its educational works on pressing issues of the day including biomimicry, integrative medicine, green building and fostering youth leadership to build a sustainable future, Bioneers will continue to broadcast across global channels the urgency of taking care of the earth and of one another. And if the past 20 years are any indication of the demand, the annual conference in San Rafael, California that draws thousands each year will continue to showcase the latest technology, social and scientific solutions needed to spark hope and inspiration and to turn education into action. Bioneers FAQ

Highlights of the 2009 Conference

• Dr. Andrew Weil, the nation’s foremost authority on Integrative medicine, and author of numerous bestselling books including Spontaneous Healing and Eight Weeks to Optimum Health. Drawing from his newest book, Why Our Health Matters: A Vision of Medicine That Can Transform Our Future (September 2009), Dr. Weil will illustrate how making the critical link between human and environmental health can transform the healthcare system to benefit public health, the economy and the environment.

• Because Bioneers was created with the mission to help improve the industrialized food system, there will be a heavy focus around food and agriculture. Presenting at this year’s conference is food expert Michael Pollan, author of Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food, and participant in the recently released production by Participant Media, Food, Inc., which will be shown during the conference’s Moving Image Festival. At the forefront of the modern day food conversation, Pollan will highlight front-line initiatives to redesign our destructive food system.

• Giving indigenous populations a voice for justice is one of the founding principles of Bioneers and primary focus of this year’s conference. Almir Narayamoga Surui is an Amazonian tribal chief who has spent more than 15 years fighting for the survival of his Surui tribe and the Amazon rainforest. Chief Almir will tell the astonishing story of how he connected with Google Earth Outreach and is using their technology to protect his people and preserve the rainforest with laptops instead of weapons.

Earlier Notes

Rehydration Revolution: Brock Dolman on Basins of Relations: A Reverential Rehydration Revolution

I am going to write later on Nina’s talk about the role women are playing in leading the world …  and about Kenny’s amazing intro … but right now while it is fresh in my mind i want to report on Brock and the Rehydration Revolution ….  

Water Institute

For starters, this guy is really head over heels in love with water!

Brock talks about ‘Hydro-illiteracy’ and how each of us much view our own watershed as a lifeboat; that each watershed is our true community and that the laws of nature operate from the bottom up… we need to outfit every lifeboat … He discusses a recent trip to Tibet and shows pictures of small Tibetan water (prayer) wheels which are predominant throughout the country. He shows the heartbreaking pictures of the Himalayas today and how millions and millions people will be impacted as the snow virtually disappears from the mountaintops and the rivers begin to dry up.

just think about it water three forms and as a solid it can float on itself.

we have kingdoms of life as opposed to kingdoms of life….

shows slides of Tibetan water wheels….

BrokenRoots Sunday: Art & HPRP & Homeless in America

US President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama last winter signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, appropriating $1.5 billion for a Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP). These monies are being distributed via a formula used for the Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG).

HUD, oversees the funding and serves as the hub for information on the program, And the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) is working alongside to ensure the successful implementation of HPRP.

This Sunday, BrokenRoots shines a light on HPRP: How’s it doing so far? What are its guidelines and philosophy? Who’s eligible and how is HPRP  defining homelessness? And, perhaps more significantly, as the days grow shorter and the temps drop, what are YOU doing about the homeless crisis in your own backyard? We’ll provide a few suggestions and solicit some ideas.

If it’s Sunday, It’s ‘Homeless in America”

EcoJustice: Live for the Left Coast

(posted earlier this eve at The Orange)

Today  as World Habitat Day shines a light on the basic  human right to adequate shelter, Mark Horvarth, creator and producer of InvisiblePeople.TV, sits down with progressive talk show host Angie Coiro to discuss homelessness in America. Horvarth, who hails from Los Angeles, swung into San Francisco late last night, at the tail end of his  2 1/2 month roadtrip across America. He has some fine suggestions to share, like a Yelp for nonprofits and an iPhone app to direct volunteers to the nearest location in need of their help.

So tonight, in acknowledgement of WHD, EcoJustice joins Angie and Mark Live from the Left Coast.

(note liveblog will be archived at

Let’s go LIVE from the streets of San Francisco!

The number of low-income families in the US that lack safe and affordable housing is related to the number of children that suffer from asthma, viral infections, anemia, stunted growth and other health problems. About 21,000 children have stunted growth attributable to the lack of stable housing; 10,000 children between the ages of 4 and 9 are hospitalized for asthma attacks each year because of cockroach infestation at home; and more than 180 children die each year in house fires attributable to faulty electrical heating and electrical equipment. World Habitat News Facts

Women from Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cameroon, Mail, Sierra Leone, and The Gambia are training to become barefoot solar engineers in Tilonia, home of the Barefoot College in India. After 6 months training in India, they will return to their home countries and solar-electrify their own communities.Link

For a full third of our nation, home is a noteworthy topic.  For these 95 million people home isn’t a given.  It is a search, a hope, a goal.  Whether they have housing problems because of poverty, mental illness, or loss of family, they have them.  Many of these people are chronically homeless, and some are working 3 jobs and still unable to afford decent housing for their families.Thoughts on World Habitat Day; Mobile Loaves & Fishes.

What if we could find ways to engage the nation’s homeless in projects which could lead them out of poverty?   What if, instead of turning our homeless out onto the streets early each morning, we converted shelters in 21st century workshops… what if we took the ‘bottom up’ localized principles of social entrepreneurship and sustainable development that are most effective in international projects — I’m thinking here of Seva Foundation and India’s Barefoot College, and the phenomenal work of  …. hmmm … what was that guy’s name anyway? You know, the one who was hired by the Obama administration to take on molding a community based approach to greening the economy? …. ohhhhhh

…. What if we hired Van Jones to tackle this problem????

(wherein i assemble a mini VJ swag bag)Van Jones Green for All

“Is there anyone here who ever swallowed hard and took a stand for something that you knew was unpopular? Has anybody in this room ever really, really screwed something up, and then tried again? Well, I would say if you answered yes to any of those questions, you are a social entrepreneur.”  Van Jones

“Adopt a policy or implement a program that creates environmentally beneficial jobs in slums and/or low-income neighborhoods.”

The adoption of these accords marked the beginning of the global movement for “green jobs.”

… Princeton University professor and political commentator Melissa Harris-Lacewell frames Jones’s resignation as a “kick in the gut” to the environmental justice movement, whose initiatives include creating green jobs and advocating against improper land uses and health problems in poor and minority neighborhoods … Green The Block  launches last week in DC and  from the Ella Baker Blog “Center for Human Rights where Jones was a co-founder and worked for ten years: “While most Americans would now agree that climate change is real, a new report by the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity and UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources uncovers what researchers call a “climate gap” or hidden pattern revealing that poor people and people of color in the United States suffer more from environmental changes than other whiter and wealthier Americans.

One more call lauding the extraordinary work of another social entrepreneur,  MacArthur Fellowship recipient David Green. Green’s lifework is about providing affordable, accessible and financially self-sustaining health care and medical technology throughout the developing world. Through the Seva Foundation, he partnered with India’s Aurolab to develop an affordable intraocular lens for cataract patients. Aurolab provides intraocular lenses to poor cataract patients at a cost of $4 – $6. (In contract, US manufactures lenses at a cost of $100-$150.) His most recent project, Conversion Sound,is based upon three concepts:  wealthy clients pay higer prices to subsidize the lower price of hearing aids to poorer clients; battery prices are lowered through use of a solar or crank-powered battery charger; and non-medical personnel are trained to fit hearing aids in a little over an hour. Additionally, custom molds are manufactured on site utlizing an instant mold making process.

Green says what motivates him is analogous to Chinese acupunture: the redirection of energy from where it is most focused to where it is most needed. He says he doesn’t work with companies;rather, he works with individuals who possess technical competence and deep rooted integrity. Green is currently addressing applicatin of his well-tested concepts of social capitalism in the design of a “Bottom of the pyramid approach to healthcare delivery to develop financially self sustaining paradigms for health services. He recently spoke at a forum in San Francisco discussing this extraordinary paradigm.

Sugggestion: What if we hired Van Jones to handle this problem? And he talked to David Green and they both talked to David Horvarth and then they all get together for a roundtable special on Angie Coiro’s Live From The Left Coast? Maybe we could get something done! (In my attempt to get things started, I’ve got the Ella Baker Center following my tweets and am following the tweets of a wide array of social entrepreneur networks in the hopes I can generate some cross-tweeting.)

As soon as the downpour started the children were out on the streets in the slums of Dhaka, celebrating the rain

One out of every three city dwellers n the world – nearly a billion people – lives in a slum. (Slum indicators include: lack of water, lack of sanitation, overcrowding, non-durable structures and insecure tenure.)

Dharavi – Asia’s largest slum, is located in the centre of Mumbai. Studies show that more than 60 percent of population of Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) lives in the slums. These slums lack basic infrastructure and is very low in hygenic and health care.

LOS ANGELES – The city attorney stood on the roof of a homeless shelter high above the human misery of Skid Row in April and announced a $1.6 million settlement from a hospital accused of dumping about 150 mentally ill patients on the streets.

Rocky Delgadillo trumpeted the penalty, castigated those who took advantage of society’s most vulnerable and praised the Union Rescue Mission’s chief executive as an inspiration for the investigation that led to the settlement.

What seemed like a big payday for the shelter and other nonprofits that have fought homelessness, mental illness and drug abuse on Skid Row for years, however, turned out to be no such bonanza. Instead, the lion’s share went to an organization in Pasadena – a suburb a dozen miles away – to provide grief counseling to school children. Link

Compare this

A member of the Tulag Tribe in Africa comments on the magical moment, as the sun sets, the world settles, the tribespeople get into their tents, boil tea …

VMA: Tell me about a moment of deep happiness for you in the desert.

MAA: It happens every day, two hours before sunset. The heat decreases, there is still no cold air, and men and animals slowly return to the compound, and their profiles are painted against a sky that is pink, blue, red, yellow, green.

VMA: That sounds fascinating.

MAA: It’s a magical moment. We all get into the tents and we boil tea. Sitting in silence we listen to the sound of the boiling water. We are immersed in calmness, with our the heart beating to the rhythm of the boiling water, potta potta potta……

VMA: How peaceful.

MAA: Yes…here you have watches; there, we have time.

from LIM News Interview with by Victor-M. Amela with Moussa Ag Assarid, a journalist and member of the Touareg tribe in Africa.

with this …

an American photographer rushes back for his camera to capture a picture of a Hobo’s tent …

i was driving past, the sun was setting, the smoke was brewing, they were still sleeping. i parked and ran back, adjusting the setting to my camera, ready set go. and then the hobos came out of their cardboard house, they didnt realise that the fire was going, they had been saving it. so this one guy stomped it out, while the other guy just sat on the curb and watched the cars go by. (i’ll put that photo up soon).

the guy who was sitting on the curb has claimed this yard for years. i used to buy him coffee every morning when i worked around the corner. he used to smile and talk some banter to me. sadly, as the years have passed he has become even more estranged with this world, he no longer talks, he can barely look me in the eyes. he rarely smiles. his smile was once so sweet, the cheekiness of a child.

recently his friend, the guy putting out the fire, set up camp next to him. they watch the people go by, the day go by, silent, but together. Cybele

Photo credits:

World Habitat Day Mosaic

Barefoot Photographers of Tilonia

Please Color My Eyes by Bu Saif

Masai Mara, by Lyndon Firman

Hobo Home by Cybele

The start of the monsoon, 2009-05-17, by Martien Van Asseldonk.

Dharavi, Mumbai by Soumak Kar

Urban Camping by James Hermann

EcoJustice series discuss environmental justice, or the disproportionate impacts on human health and environmental effects on minority communities in the U.S. and around the world. All people have a human right to clean, healthy and sustainable communities.

Almost 4 decades ago, the EPA was created partially in response to the public health problems caused in our country by environmental conditions, which included unhealthy air, polluted rivers, unsafe drinking water and waste disposal.  Oftentimes, the answer has been to locate factories and other pollution-emitting facilities in poor, culturally diverse, or minority communities.

Please join EcoJustice hosts on Monday evenings at 7PM PDT. Please email us if you are interested in hosting.

BrokenRoots: Heros for Homeless: Free Screenings of Michael Moore’s Movie Tonight

Movie marques in cities across America tonight showcase “free admission” to Michael Moore’s latest film,”Capitalism: A Love Story” for anyone who’s “fallen on hard times.”

“To kick off the national release of “Capitalism: A Love Story,” I’ve asked the studio to offer a number of screenings in the nation’s hardest hit cities — the ones with the highest unemployment rates and highest foreclosure rates — where those who’ve lost their jobs or who are in foreclosure (or have already been evicted) may attend my film free of charge,” Moore writes.  “They’ve agreed, and so tonight (Thursday), the night before our opening day, ten cities will grant you free admission if you have fallen on hard times. The list of theaters and cities is below. You don’t need to bring any proof of your situation — just show up — it’s the honor system, no questions asked. Link

The free 7:30 p.m. screenings are scheduled in Saginaw, Michigan; Elkhart Indiana;Peoria, Illinois; Las Vegas, Nevada, Fresno, California, Phoenix, Arizona, Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina;Baltimore, Maryland, Tampa/St. Pete/Florida and Cleveland, Ohio. For information on theater locations, click here.

“Capitalism, A Love Story” debuts tomorrow.

(from dmott9’s flickr photostream

BrokenRoots: Update: Arrests as police break up Nickelsville Homeless encampment

It’s all over save for news on what’s next for residents of Nickelsville, a Seattle, Washington, homeless camp where earlier today 12 residents were arrested after refusing to comply with police requests that they leave the property or face arrest.

This is not the first ‘wipe out’ for this homeless population, which last September was booted from its makeshift homes and tents and relocated in July to a park at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 107.

As promised, at around 2 p.m. this afternoon, 30-40 police officers, entered the encampment. By that time most of the residents had left, after being informed through loudspeakers that they faced arrest and charges of second degree criminal trespassing.

Arrestees were led in ones and twos out of the camp accompanied by two or three police officers. Kevin Dockery, a Nickelsville resident, was sitting on a milk crate in a central location of camp, visible to all spectators. Several officers encircled him. An officer took his cane and laid it down next to him. Dockery and the officers talked for several minutes. Eventually he stood and was led out of camp by a few officers, unhandcuffed, using his cane. A couple of other arrested Nickelodeons were also allowed to leave camp without being cuffed.

Another arrestee was supporter Dorli Rainey, who is 82 years old. Link

Yesterday, homeless advocate Shannon Moriarty, who writes for End Homelessness for, called for a protest to support allowing Nicolodeans to remain where they had settled, but despite a sleepover outside the Mayor’s house, today’s wipeout of Nickelsville went off without a hitch.

Nickelsville: September, 2008.

The state has ordered campers to clear out of their current site on Port of Seattle Property along West Marginal Way. The port says the camp is there illegally.

The deadline to leave was 1 p.m., but some residents elected not to leave. They face the possibility of arrest as events unfold this afternoon.

Police were on site after the deadline today, talking to the residents who remained.

There are roughly 80 residents at Nickelsville. They’ve been camping on Port of Seattle land for two months. Link

The eviction  began last Friday when residents were forced to move to a parking lot nearby their encampment.

“The newly built structures were torn down by police, stakes were broken and some of the tents lost. Estimated property loss of the sweeps is over $2,000.” September ’08. (See

No word on any plans for where these homeless will be offered shelter.

The 26 September 07 raid. “Police fenced off the Nickelsville campground & toilets) after moving everyone to the concrete parking lot. Does not make sense to me.”

Once again, America forgets its promise:

“Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus (The Statue of Liberty

The residents held sleepover demonstration outside the Mayor’s house two nights back.

BrokenRoots: Homeless in America

(crossposted at DailyKos on Sunday)

After ten years on the beat, a former San Jose, California, police officer reflects – in poignant pictures and words – on her lifelong experiences with the homeless. Even during her childhood years, when her parents (caring for the needs of a family of 12) had difficulty making ends meet from time to time, Paula Craig Steele learned the importance of giving to those less fortunate.  

Tonight, Steele, disabled since 2005 with skeletal and mental health problems incurred during her years of public service, shares her story. She reports from San Leandro, California, where homelessness is an ever-present reality, highly visible by dozens upon dozens of foreclosures in her middle-class neighborhood.  She fears that if her husband loses his job, it may be a matter of a mere six months before they too become just one more statistic in the alarmingly expanding population of those who are ‘Homeless in America.’

Take it away, Paula.

A Fallen Angel, taken on Howard St. @ 6th St., in the “6th Street Beautification Corridor” of San Francisco, CA, on 11/20/2006. Photo by Paula Craig Steele.


BrokenRoots: Helping the Homeless: “There’s no turning back!”

(crossposted at DailyKos)Can a single individual make a dent in the homelessness crisis in America?  

Meet Jory John, former programs director at 826 Valencia and creator of The Peanut Butter Plan, and Mark Horvarth, a formerly homeless Hollywood video producer, who is heading back home from a 2 1/2 month long road trip blogging (he’s Hardly Normal), photographing, filming, and interacting with community service organizations, volunteers and the nation’s homeless for

As new P&J volunteer centers spring up across the US and The Peanut Butter Facebook group swells past 2000, John discusses his quest to expand and improve his fledgling organization, to maximize impact. And Horvarth, on the final leg of his road trip across America, is undoubtedly changed forever by the ‘shock and awe’ of documenting our nation’s ‘invisible people.”

The most significant thing uniting these two men? The realization that “there’s no turning back.”

stellaroo’s diary:

Music & Memory & the ‘Illusory Self’

Cross posted at DailyKos, ePluribus Media and Tikkun Daily.

Abstract: Current research in the cognitive sciences and neurology abounds in astounding theories on the locus of long-term memory; the ability of the brain to repurpose sections to recreate neural pathways totally destroyed by strokes, head injuries, or severe mental disabilities; and the intricate interplay of powerful emotions and complex neural coding in ‘reliving’ past traumas.

Drawing upon findings on the use of mirror boxes to threat phantom limb pain, on the role of our senses in unconsciously triggering highly emotive memories capable of transporting our consciousness beyond time/place constrictions, and the always miraculous studies of neurologist Oliver Sachs, herein is a different take on treatment for conditions such as chronic pain, strokes, and mental and affective disabilities.(Note: if possible, go to diary end to play music as you read)

There is this one story in Oliver Sach’s Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain which remains readily retrievable in my memory. A story so utterly mind-boggling, so counter-intuitive, so, as it were, against the grain, that it has  hunkered down in my hippocampus, leaving an indelible imprint in the very cellular structure of my brain.

The Chapter “Pitch Imperfect: Cochlear Amusia” begins with a quote from Shakespeare’s Troilus & Cressida: “Untune that string/And hark, what discord follows!”

Here’s a paraphrase.

An aging renowned composer and conductor visits Sachs to discuss the ever-increasing difficulties in his music pursuant to his increasing hearing loss, accompanied by the loss of absolute pitch. Sachs, along with auditory specialists, concur that the problem is irreversible, due to the natural die off of some of the 4500-odd hair cells within the ear’s Organ of Corti. The musician learns to compensate, composing and directing in lower registers (even when these variations grow from 1/4 to over 1 full octave in discrepancies) and soon discovers he can make contextual ‘auditory’ corrections when working in full orchestra as opposed to with solo cellos, violas, or trombones. He begins to entertain the notion that his problem may be more in his brain. Some time goes by before Sachs receives a letter from the composer, informing him that he has regained his sense of absolute pitch, that once again he can accurately compose, hear and direct music. The change occurred after he received a commission which involved his total immersion in the composition of complex orchestral pieces. Sachs concludes that, despite the non-functionality of significant parts of the musician’s auditory processing facilities, becoming totally immersed in music for an extended time, reactivated his cellular musical memory, which resides inside the brain.

For some people, music can actually change the structure of the brain. Researchers have found that an area of the brain called the corpus callosum is enlarged in professional musicians.

Another part of the brain is enlarged in musicians with absolute pitch. A person with absolute pitch can identify or recreate a musical note without the help of a musical instrument.Link

Environmental Justice: Kampala, Uganda: Case Study I

(Previously posted at DailyKos and Get Energy Smart Now)

The road between Kampala and Entebbe

Larry Rhodes joined Rotary International four years ago after visiting Tororo, Uganda, where Rotarians were meeting to discuss their rocket stove project.

“One of the enduring images from my first trip four years ago was the huge amount of plastic “grocery” bags discarded along the road and in particularly at the trading centers,” says Rhodes. “The multi-nationals had introduced them in Uganda only a few years before. As they have no infrastructure for hiding their waste, it was just dumped alongside the road.

“The impression I had was that there was no recycling of the plastic bags–with the exception that children would wrap them tightly into a ball and use them as a soccer ball. To its credit, the Government outlawed the use of these plastic bags about two years ago.”

Kampala and Environmental Justice

Travel with me to Kampala and its environs to examine the issues confronting east African communities as they battle towards attaining environmental justice.

Throughout this virtual journey, I will be incorporating a few of the  17 principles of environmental justice authored by Robert Bullard, who is recognized by many as the “Father of Environmental Justice.”  

Homeless in America


On any given night, 671,859 people are homeless in America.  More than 40,000 of us catch what zzz’s we can within LAs “Skid Row,” a 50-square foot block which is rapidly gaining prominence as ‘ground zero’ for homelessness in the U.S.

People experience homelessness for a host of reasons: unforeseen financial emergencies, addiction and mental illness, and – often – financial/economic distress.

Shannon Moriarty, who writes regularly in her series >End Homelessness, urges all of us to recognize and avoid the three euphemisms recently being used to identify the crisis: economic refugees, structurally challenged, and transient. The word ‘homeless,’ she writes, conveys specific images which in turn give rise to judgments and stereotypes.

“But the word “homeless” should mean nothing more than a person’s state of being at a moment in time,” she says. “It should not imply anything about a person’s character, work ethic, appearance, health, or intellect.  

“In other words, “homeless” means just that – not having a home.”

Early today Mark Horvarth, on a road trip across the US for InvisiblePeopleTV, interviews Steve Berg, Vice President of the National Coalition of the Homeless.

Haight Ashbury Homeless. 2009. Photo by Lizzy Phelan.

According to new figures compiled by the Coalition, California ranks second only to Florida in the number of attacks on homeless individuals: 22 homeless people were attacked in California in 2008, including 10 deaths. California Second in the Nation in Attacks on Homeless Aug. 21, 2009.  Due to increased violent attacks against the nation’s homeless population, the  Coalition is taking the lead in a countrywide campaign to include homeless in groups protected by federal hate crime legislation. After Maryland earlier this year expanded its hate crime laws to include attacks on the homeless, five other states are considering following the lead of Maryland, where earlier this year hate crime laws were amended to include attacks against homeless individuals and groups.

In July, nearly 86,000 YouTube videos portrayed situations which were degrading homeless people. The media is reporting that there is an increase in online videos that record beatings and violence against homeless people.

Ending Homeless writer Moriarty discusses why homeless are victims of“Bum Fight” videos:

“Bum fights” are videos of homeless people being beaten or forced into humiliating acts. Usually, those filming (and instigating the antics) use money or alcohol to lure homeless people into participating in these schemes, often with no knowledge that they will be posted on the web.”

A federal bill addressing violence against the homeless was introduced in Congress just prior to summer recess.

More from LA: Visit Holes in Safety Net Getting Bigger


Chicago Union Station. 2009. Photo by Neal Rauhauser.

Five homeless Chicago teenagers were awarded $2,000 college scholarships by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) for succeeding in school despite facing homelessness. Three of the students lived alone, without family, while finishing school.  


Scottsale, AZ. First Homeless Shelter

Family Promise recently moved its offices to Scottsdale after purchasing a small apartment complex near Scottsdale and McDowell roads. The property at 7221 E. Belleview St. serves as the Family Promise offices, and includes a family center as well as a place to help parents in the program look for jobs, work on resumes and list an address for their job search.

Within 60 to 90 days, about 70 percent of the families have found better housing and a job, Love said.

Homeless interventions traditionally involve a van picking up families from participating churches at 4:30 am and returning them in time for dinner by 5pm. Many programs are available for one to three months. Now, Family Promise’s transitional housing is available for six to nine months, with the hope that the additional time and support will assist more families in becoming self-sufficient.  

Photo by Neal Rauhauser


Be the changer or the changed

Boston Street Retreat: Episode One

“I spent the last three days and two nights sleeping out on the streets in Boston with no money, food, water, or anything other than the clothes on my back, a towel, a sweatshirt, my camera, and a street pack.

“It was the most powerful experience I have ever had; welcoming, frightening, relaxing, sketchy, beautiful, and inspirational.

I will be writing several blogs about the people I met the experience I had throughout the week so check back soon.”  

From the Streets of San Francisco

Haight Homeless. 2009. Photo by Lizzy Phelan.

Starting with 2003 when the 1993 SF Chronicle series Shame of the City,reporters and photographers began spotlighting the growing crisis of homelessness in the city. Even with Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Project Homeless Connect, the homeless crisis in this city escalates … and the SFGate has re-activated the ’03 series with new stories.

Homeless#2. 2009. Photo by Lizzy Phelan

The federal government has granted San Francisco nearly $9 million of the $1.5 billion Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HRRP)in federal stimulus funds aimed at combating homelessness through a program designed to intervene at the community level with preventive and re-housing measures. Listen to NPR: Some Stimulus Money Preventing Homelessness, July 2009

San Francisco Homeless 3.2009 Photo by Lizzy Phelan

Nine years ago, the National Alliance to End Homelessness stated: “As a nation, we do a lot to address homelessness-build shelters, distribute food and blankets and the like. What we don’t do is prevent homelessness or help people exit homelessness.” And though the funds from HPRP are not sufficient, the organization is hopeful in the about the change in direction towards prevention with rental assistance and housing search.

Live from New York

The New York City Rescue Alliance, a faith-based partnership of ministries and churches “focused on offering every man or woman living on the streets of New York an alternative to their plight” recently produced the powerful video Don’t Walk By, a call out to New Yorkers to reach out to more than 3000 city homeless city residents and who is my neighbor.  

“People sometimes ask, will the stimulus money we receive be enough to help us through this unprecedented difficult period of time? And, you know, I don’t know the answer to that. But what I do know is it would give us a fighting chance” ROB HESS (Department of Homeless Services, New York City) who plans to utilize most of the plans to use most of the $74 million in stimulus money his agency will receive to improve community centers as they deal with a growing number of families in need of assistance.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC Homeless. Photo by Neal Rauhauser

LA Homeless Blog: Can a new bill end homelessness for veterans?

Homeless Media

The Soloist

“Then picture your life unraveling at lightening speed, your confidence eroding, your grasp on reality slipping away. One day you’re at the Juilliard School of Music with a promising future and then, in just a few years, you’re homeless, living on the sidewalks of Los Angeles, serenading passers-by with rambling attempts at classical music.” from What ‘The Soloist’ Tells Us about Homelessness and Mental Illness

Take Action

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2. Take the Pledge never to judge a homeless person link

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Archiving Homelessness

One Brave Kossack: Medically Homeless Archive

Homelessness Poverty Blogs

InvisiblePeople TVInvisible People.TV Group Pool

“BrokenRoots is a group for bloggers/advocates interested in issues about and facing homeless people. Our goal is to a create a network of regional ‘stringers’ who can dispatch news and photos from communities across the country to report on the impacts of the economic crisis on the homeless situation. We welcome first person stories, analysis, and reporting. The DK BrokenRoots project team will discuss, create and promote Daily Kos diaries on these issues, connect bloggers; create projects, and share related news and resources.”