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As college life tries to return to normal, it couldn’t be more uncertain

Just when we thought the return to college life in the fall was looking rather “normal,” hurdles continue to haunt the future. Plain and simply: the uncertainty surrounding college life makes for a harrowing experience for returning students and especially college freshmen.

Most universities seem to choose their bottom line over the well-being and education of their students. And with difficulties in organization and planning from many colleges, students, especially those that live on campus, are the ones that suffer. Here are the questions universities and students should be asking themselves as the fall semester approaches.

Mask or no mask?

With states lifting all Covid-related safety restrictions earlier this summer, going back to classes in person was looking bright and easy.

Colleges requiring the vaccine for their students to return to campus made it seem like masks would be long gone in classrooms and school halls. But after barely a few months free of face covering, the rising cases due to the Delta variant continue to cause concern.

Indeed, the prospect of a screen-free, mask-free return to classes was rather invigorating for those registering for in-person courses. If not a little overwhelming, after hiding behind those things for over a year, entering a classroom with a visible smile on your face sounded unheard of up until recently.

But just as excitement reached its peak, it’s nerve-wracking to feel like it could all crumble back down.

Housing or no housing?

In spite of disappointing changes to what returning in person might look like, students remain eager to go back. But yet another challenge is arising for colleges that rely mostly on their on-campus housing option: space.

While last spring enrollment rates declined, this year the opposite phenomenon occurred, leaving colleges on a bit of a limb. Truly the uncertainty around college life right now could not be much more severe.

From study abroad restrictions to delayed graduation times following the pandemic, students are returning to campus in greater numbers than colleges anticipated.

This means hopeless waitlists even for students embarking on their senior year and pursuing their thesis who absolutely need to attend classes in person. For students attending colleges where the off-campus living options are scarce and for those on financial aid, the uncertainty is draining.

While some institutions prove to be rather unresponsive, others are trying everything they can to accommodate as many students as possible. And they are doing so in rather surprising ways.

Middlebury College in Vermont is offering up to 50 percent discounts on their room and board rates if students opt for college housing that is further away. Meanwhile, Dartmouth is simply offering $5,000 to students who decide to opt-out of dorm-living.

But after feeling alienated from an environment that once felt or should have felt like home, students’ desire to be where they are meant to be is hard to shake. The enthusiasm of returning to in-person classes, and to life in general, is palpable, making these complications disheartening.

Reconnecting amongst college life’s uncertainty

Whatever way we look at them, these months continue to be a rollercoaster of hope, frustration, disappointment, and back around.

Grateful as ever for the things that are falling back into place, we need to hold on tight. This year has proven to be a challenge in all shapes and forms, and even though it isn’t over, it doesn’t mean that what is to come can’t be better.

Vito Corleone: Chasing the gems of New York City on 18mm

Ukrainian-born photographer Vito Corleone left everything behind when he was just 20 years old to settle down in Coney Island, with just short of $300 in his pocket. An artist of unparalleled energy, Corleone was fascinated with New York since he was a kid.

From watching the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on TV to selling a clothing line that featured work by late street photographer Ricky Powell while working in retail, Corleone’s lust for New York only grew stronger.

In 2014, the Ukrainian-born photographer was able to make the cross-Atlantic move through a work-and-travel program as war arose between Ukraine and Russia. And in spite of the harsh reality of things, it wasn’t long before he felt like he belonged in the city that never sleeps.

ukrainian-born photographer Vito Corleone
“Summer Drip” by Vito Corleone supporting a friend’s clothing brand “Kentpacket”

As we talked, he vividly remembered the Haitian host he rented a room from upon his arrival: “She would make Haitian coffee every morning. She would cover me up with a blanket in the night when it got cold.”

And from little things such as these to the encounter that changed Vito’s life shortly after that, gratitude continuously emanates from him.

Ricky Powell and a soaring debut for Vito Corleone

Struck by the visuals of Ricky Powell’s work which he discovered through the clothing line back in Ukraine, Corleone immediately looked into the famous photographer when he arrived in the city. “I thought I should go to one of his exhibits,” he said.

But Corleone was still under 21, so he couldn’t get in. “So I asked outside if Ricky could come out,” he continued. And so Ricky Powell came out for a conversation that lasted over two hours and gave Vito Corleone his start in photography.

That day, Corleone took a picture of Powell right outside Club MK where Powell had captured the renowned portrait of Cindy Crawford in 1989.

ricky powell
Ricky Powell aka The Lazy Hustler, by Vito Corleone

That day the late photographer gifted him the print of his choice (with no hesitation, Corleone had one in mind: Warhol and Basquiat), and marked it with the following: “I like your style, kid. Do you.”

Though Powell passed away in February of this year, Corleone claims he still feels Powell’s spirit in the air, and hears his voice in his head.

“He’s the Godfather of my photography.”

Vito Corleone

“Grab your camera and go”

A plumber by day, Vito is a photographer every second in between, if not simultaneously. As unlikely as it may sound, the Ukrainian-born photographer explained how similar photography can be to his day job.

“In plumbing… you can’t lie to yourself. You can’t leave anything unfinished, or you’ll have water everywhere and who knows what other costly problem. It’s the same practice in photography. It’s not enough to just see what you see. You need to push what you’re doing to the end.”

Vito Corleone

“Well, maybe that’s just for life in general,” he concluded. The analogy left me speechless.

vito corleone
“Hustle and motivate” by Vito Corleone – advocating for freedom from street violence

It was humbling to hear Vito talk about his craft. He sees his body of work as a representation of the “universal journey” of living in the moment. Able to make the mundane feel special, while never failing to capture what is out of the ordinary, he insists:

“You need to be able to see things in the present.”

Vito Corleone

But the spontaneity in his work in no way suggests any lack of intention. The Ukrainian-born photographer just lives with an urge to share the way he sees things hoping to convey his excitement about them.

New York, New York

Vito Corleone strongly believes in respecting the history of the streets, knowing the sidewalks he walks, and steering clear of stereotypes. He claims:

“If you don’t know the city, you’re wasting your energy on it. But if you do know, then the city will give you the energy you need.”

Vito Corleone

Although his eyes find magic everywhere, I asked Vito if he had any favourite spots to visit around the city.

“Probably this old gas station in Brooklyn,” he said. “There’s always fancy rides, old models of cars… They were drawn by hand back then.”

The Ukrainian-born photographer has a great appreciation for how those showcase the flavour of their era.

ukrainian-born photographer vito corleone
“High stakes, low rider” by Vito Corleone shot in Coney Island

And authenticity comes across poignantly when looking at his work and hearing him speak.

Up close with Vito Corleone

“The closer you get the more interesting things become.”

Vito Corleone on working with 18mm

Vito recently pushed the boundaries of his creative process by taking one photo a day for 365 consecutive days. A challenge for the self, he recognized that it allowed him to continuously seek new perspectives, something he considers vital for his craft.

The Brooklyn-based artist believes photography can change the way people see things. It can connect us and remind us that while “we’re all so different, at the same time we’re all human.”

And it’s all those differences, that uniqueness, that Corleone seeks to share in a way that speaks to the world.

Since that day outside Ricky Powell’s exhibit, Vito’s camera has never left his side. It was Powell who told him “You need to be ready every day.”

Living by that motto, today Corleone adds: “You never know what you’ll run into.”

And with ambition and passion that soar higher than the city’s skyscrapers, Vito Corleone has much, much more for us in store.

Haitian photographer Cristina Baussan explores migration in the Caribbean

For years now the results of the environmental crisis has led to the evacuation of cities and people losing their homes. Islands and coasts see their future most compromised, inciting migration to “safer” regions. These instances of dangerous climate change and migration in the Caribbean are captured by extraordinary Haitian photographer Cristina Baussan.

Indeed, from heatwaves to flash floods, the Caribbean islands continue to be among the regions most threatened by climate change. Climate refugees, often not regarded as legal refugees despite their bearing of consequences mostly inflicted by richer countries in which they would seek refuge, need shelter.

Climate change and migration in the Caribbean

In February of this year, Biden approved an executive order directed towards “Rebuilding and Enhancing Programs to Resettle Refugees and Planning for the Impact of Climate Change on Migration.”

After years of Trump dismantling the US’s response to the climate crisis, this is an immense step in the right direction. Not only a directory for the government, the order is also an invitation for the world to pay more attention to how climate change is affecting our planet and its people.

While many coastal regions are endangered, geographical as well as economic and governmental features make places like the Caribbean most susceptible to the effects of climate change, and then, forced migration.

From Haiti’s location and deforestation levels, to its high poverty rates and unstable government, the country is only hit harder by further natural disasters.

While hurricanes and storms have become more regular and aggressive, rises in sea level and rates of coastal floods are an ongoing threat as well. For countries like Barbados that largely relies on its tourism sector or the Dominican Republic already in constant threat of natural disasters, the economic losses are unimaginable.

In a recent analysis, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) explained that “Extreme weather displaces nearly three times more people than conflict and nearly nine times more than fear of persecution.”

But the biggest of problems occurs when those issues come together.

Haitian photographer Cristina Baussan

Cristina Baussan is a documentary photographer and writer, now based in NYC. With Haitian, Salvadorian, French, and American origins, her work sheds light on the power of human connection in the face of hardship.

Putting environmental crisis in conversation with humanity and social injustices, Baussan’s art showcases all facets of life.

In 2020, The New York Times shared Baussan’s powerful exhibition “When Climate Change and Xenophobia Collide,” explaining just that.

caribbean climate change
Neighbors gather near their dismantled homes in Marsh Harbour, Abaco. In the first three months after the storm, the government deported more than a thousand Haitians, including at least twenty children. Abaco, The Bahamas. © Cristina Baussan 2019, All Rights Reserved.

The black and white collection of photographs in the Bahamas reflects urgency coupled with powerlessness. Placing emphasis on the difficult aftermath of natural disasters such as Hurricanes Isaias and Dorian, the Haitian photographer poses the questions we are often too oblivious or scared to ask.

Why does it so happen that disasters such as those occur in places that have the least to begin with?

“When Winters Had Their Seasons”

Along with extreme poverty and gang violence, climate change is creating a new wave of young Salvadoran migrants searching for safer and more prosperous lives away from home. This project explores youth’s decision to migrate to the United States or to find alternative work in their rural hometowns of El Salvador.

Cristina Baussan’s Solo Exhibition, Columbia University, 2019

It is somewhat heart-wrenching to see that what Baussan photographed in 2019 is still so topical today. “When Winters Had Their Seasons.”

But indeed, as we continue to lose our sense of the seasons we may be used to as a result of the climate crisis, Cristina Baussan’s work remains of extreme relevance through the years.

In spite of pain and desolation, it isn’t only sorrow we see in this collection. There’s color, contemplation, and hope. There’s a sense of life and among and of new beginnings. Which is something our world should be ready to offer more acceptingly to those in peril who already have so much to leave behind them.

haitian photographer cristina baussan
Melvin Elias (middle), 16, waits for a friend before going fishing near his home in La Barra de Santiago, El Salvador. La Barra de Santiago, Ahuachapán, El Salvador. January 2019. © Cristina Baussan 2019, All Rights Reserved.

And indeed, Baussan does a remarkable job at capturing the richness of the land and culture of those endangered regions. Because of it, her photographs become so poignant when we understand that Caribbean people are being forced into migration in the face of the climate crisis.

The Haitian photographer channels more imagery in her writing

Tying her writing to her photography, Cristina Baussan’s work gains even more in meaning.

Paired together her photography and writing highlight the humanity that lies behind what we read in the news or hear about. She embraces the souls that hide behind the numbers, and the hope that lives among them.

Looking at the issue through a lens as powerful as hers may make it feel untouchable. But it is. Her artwork is a vector for raising awareness about climate change repercussions we don’t talk about often enough. It is a love letter to the places and people we need to fight for.

Following her invitation to see and feel what is going on in more remote places of our planet, there is an invitation to help. And long overdue, it begins and continues today, with little things we can all do.

Resources for help

Follow Cristina Baussan’s work for images and words that inspire life.

Elephante’s full circle journey continues with new single Holy Ghosts

Michigan-born artist Elephante (Tim Wu) decided to take the leap towards music when his corporate lifestyle led to sleepless nights of writing songs more than anything else.

“Making music resonated so deeply with me and it’s just what I loved doing on my own time.”

Elephante for Kulture Hub

Ever since, he’s released two EPs, I Am The Elephante, followed by Glass Mirror, that saw tracks top the global dance charts. Selling out venues like the Wynn in Las Vegas or playing Lollapalooza, Elephante is elaborating his musical voice.

Following his last single “High Water,” today he releases the nostalgic yet uplifting track “Holy Ghosts.”

(Cred: Alex Lopes)

Elephante is a musician at heart

Although he graduated from Harvard, music was always a part of Elephante’s life. An accomplished musician through and through, the Michigan-born artist was classically trained on the piano as a child, but only later discovered his true passion for music.

Born to Taiwanese parents, the path was clear cut for him since the start, and finding success as a musician strayed far from it.

(Cred: Alex Lopes)

But during his teen years, he taught himself guitar, learning John Mayer riffs all night long, and despite the societal norms he was surrounded by growing up, he continued to fall more deeply in love with the craft.

The elephant in the room

“I didn’t grow up seeing anyone who looked like me doing what I wanted to do.”

Elephante for Kulture Hub

Still considering it a hobby at the time, he performed at open mics however “shitty,” and spent all his free time writing, learning, and practicing.

Unaware of it then, Elephante had yet to overcome a mental block: that for someone with his origins, being an artist could be more than just a pipe dream.

(Cred: Alex Lopes)

While his journey could easily have him typecast into a space the industry had yet to see filled, the Michigan-born artist admirably chose against the easier way in when deciding to commit to music full-time.

He chose music above all, and his courage in diving headfirst is all the more inspiring because of it. He embraced feeling like the odd one out, like the “elephant in the room,” and “Elephante” was born.

“I think regardless what happened as a result, it was inevitable… I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t try. Taking that leap without any sort of backup plan was really important.”

Elephante, on deciding to commit to making music

Where EDM meets acoustic, and reality meets the subconscious

When it comes to creating, Elephante’s singer-songwriter instincts always take the wheel to begin with.

Whether at the piano or on guitar, “It always starts with a song for me,” he explained about his creative process. He then shifts what he’s written into the digital realm (Ableton) to fill out the track’s production.

This process seems to nurture the organic blend of live and electronic sounds we hear in his music. From starting point to final product, his projects are nestled in EDM but keep the raw feeling behind them burning. And the pandemic only further propelled him in that direction.

Lockdown allowed Elephante to reconnect with the music he first played as a teen, and find his voice again as a singer-songwriter. This allowed for his singing and guitar playing to somewhat take center stage again after many projects where his focus resided mainly in writing and production.

Indeed, his recent “High Water” video, a collaborative project with director Alex Goyette, makes the electric guitar a crucial element.

It was one of the first bigger production videos Elephante ever shot, and he did not hold back one bit. Executing all stunts himself, however demanding, the challenges were not vain. The visuals are poignant and come hand in hand with the emotion that lies behind the song.

Struggling with opioids in the past, unfortunately lockdown revealed itself particularly challenging for the artist. Though far from it now, the feelings that surfaced while being stuck at home somewhat plunged him back into a resembling sensation.

The conceptual video was filmed half underwater and half in mid-air, evocative of those emotions; from loss of control and absent-mindedness to loneliness.

Elephante – High Water (Official Music Video)

Holy Ghosts

It was a few months before he finally put pen to paper again, after the pandemic hit. That’s when “Holy Ghosts” was born.

Out today, the song is an ode to the empty streets of LA and the overwhelming feeling of being haunted by the memories we found ourselves longing for during these times. While it is certain to get you on your feet, the track also screams nostalgia and is sustained by an invigorating electric guitar riff.

Like in “High Water,” “Holy Ghosts” features Elephante’s deep and comforting voice.

Revisiting his beginnings as a singer-songwriter and taking a beat encouraged the Michigan-born artist to bring his voice back to the foreground. And his warm tone is something we are excited to hear more of, especially as we return to live performances.

Elephante’s journey is just beginning

A show not only for the ears but for the soul, Elephante isn’t scared to multitask. Bringing his instrumental skills to his audience as well, he seeks to create the most unique live experience.

A bit of a shot in the dark the first time he attempted it, taking out his electric guitar while he DJs his set has become a signature move that reflects the nature of his music.

With an album in the works, although it’s been quite a journey already, it’s far from over for Elephante.

“Holy Ghosts” is out today. Stream it on all platforms, and let yourself float, feel, and dance away.

Steven Malcolm’s new EP All Is True carries rhymes straight from heaven

Michigan-born rapper Steven Malcolm radiates positive energy and it translates to his music. Despite a troubling childhood, the artist of Jamaican blood grew up learning to take the good with the bad, and today releases a new project that bathes in strength and vulnerability.

All Is True from the start

The title of Steven Malcolm’s new EP All Is True, out today, is indeed as true as it gets. The opening track of the same name is word-heavy but doesn’t fail to let us discern every syllable.

When discussing the inspiration for this record, Malcolm explained that his ability to chop fast or write good bars felt pointless without his fans knowing who he was.

The Michigan-born rapper’s process for the song “All Is True” literally began with bullet-point notes he wrote down about events in his life, and then set to a beat.

From a father who got caught for drug use to a mother with an alcohol addiction, Steven Malcolm unpacks his past with inspiring levels of honesty.

“I wanted to tell fans who I am, my story, my truth. Every lyric is true.”

Steven Malcolm

The result is a blend of his Caribbean roots and hip-hop flavour for a genre-breaking track. The hook is reminiscent of traditional chants and it gracefully melds in with its beat.

Mentioning figures like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan who he looked up to growing up, Steven Malcolm maintains specificity and rawness all throughout the EP. Further along, the name Michael Jackson makes an appearance, so I had to ask.

“I recorded all his music videos on VHS and learned how to redo all the moves,” Malcolm explained. The Michigan-born rapper remembers watching Jackson’s promotional concert videos on TV and being blown away by his dance moves. “The TV screen, basketball, videos, these games, and videos raised me,” the rapper recognized.

And indeed, these hobbies and passions growing up, served to highlight the talents Malcolm chose to share with the world today.

Music from the heart

Although the premise of his sound first appears as complex – a midwest blend of Hip Hop and Christian music – Steven Malcolm insists on the fact that at the end of the day, his creative process is just instinctive.

What flows from my heart, that’s what comes out my mouth.

Steven Malcolm

Believing in his creativity and core values and trying to never limit himself, is what allows the rapper to trust that what he creates is in a good place.

But Malcolm admitted that his urge for being unapologetically honest doesn’t come free of challenges when he sometimes finds himself being too explicit or unfiltered. “My homies are there to keep me in check when I want to say something that’s just too raw.”

Steven Malcolm: “We going’ up”

Steven Malcolm just recently became a father, which actually inspired him to hone in on the business side of his activity as an artist.
Feeling like he was on “autopilot,” he was, until now, mostly led by industry individuals higher up.

But this life-changing shift let him recognize the further meaning behind his job, making him eager to work towards leaving behind a legacy for his family.

When asked about how that relationship may have informed his music-making, Malcolm had a simple answer: “Making music is my job.”

It sometimes feels so unreal that it’s easy (and important) to forget.

But acknowledging it, “makes me more consistent,” the artist explained. We can feel the drive and ambition in his newfound workflow when he talks about his music. “It makes me go to work,” he said. And work he does.

Not only is Steven Malcolm releasing an EP today, he has an album ready and on the way. It’s the rapper’s first time “really working” with people, beyond the production side of things with a collection of features lined up.

One of the main producers on the album is one of Kanye’s producers, Malcolm explained. And to that, he only had one thing to say: “We goin’ up!”

Steven Malcolm is ready for glory

This EP is an anticipated one, with its closing track “Glory on Me,” actually premiering in April, earlier this year. One of Malcolm’s rare features, this song was the result of a collaboration with artists Childish Major and Taylor Hill.

Produced by the Grammy-winning producer Street Symphony, the song was released with some striking visuals that highlighted the roller coaster of this past year, from the hardships of the pandemic to the joy of music.

Steven Malcolm – “Glory On Me” [ft. Childish Major & Taylor Hill] (Official Music Video)

Indeed, after this time of isolation and quiet where, like many of us, our favorite Michigan-born rapper found himself lacking inspiration. But Steven Malcolm is as ready as ever to share what he has in store.

Excited to be back in front of a live audience, the rapper has a tour coming up in December, so stay tuned.

When I asked him if there was anything else readers and listeners should know, he simply said: “The vision is here, the ‘why’ is known, and the brand is about to get flown.”

As of today, stream Steven Malcolm’s EP All Is True on all platforms.

With live music returning, the world prepares for a new dawn

I can’t believe I’m writing it, but live music is back. A void that saw no finish line just started to see the light again. Indeed, it’s a thrill to witness venues open up, concerts sell out, and artists take the stage once more.

After having to adapt in many ways to keep music alive, the hurdles don’t stop by returning to live shows. While the pandemic remains an unprecedented challenge, it’s an emotional switchback.

Step by step, live music is returning

After over a year of singing “live” on Instagram, there are few words to describe the feeling of hearing claps echo in the room rather than seeing that little emoji pop up on the corner of the Zoom screen.

Granted, the first few shows performed to crowds full of masked faces could qualify as somewhat troubling. But then already, something about human presence is simply irreplaceable, especially after so much silence.

In those moments, gratitude overcomes any sense of frustration. The frustration of not seeing those smiles, the audience’s mouths singing the words along.

And thankfully that little bit of impatience and longing remaining didn’t have to last long. As anticipated as it was, the switch back to approximate “normalcy” happened rather overwhelmingly fast.

When venues open up

I can’t fathom what it must feel like to stand back on the stage of a sold-out arena with each audience member singing the words back to you.

I could hardly imagine it before COVID-19, so forget the thrill of returning to it after over a year of quiet. It’s humbling to see so many artists across the world as excited to be back in front of their fans as the fans are. The fact that venues are opening up is great for everyone.

This return emphasizes the nature of those events and why we love them. The magic at the essence of live music. Why they’re so special and why we need them. It has also served to highlight the challenges behind them, some of which we might have overlooked in the face of the gravity of this past year.

Christina Aguilera reminded us that as much as a concert may look like a one-man show, it still takes a village (more so than when you were performing through your phone).

The pandemic is not over

In spite of mask-less crowds, there are still many things to be accounted for with regards to the pandemic. As if performing a show every night wasn’t enough of a challenge before, capacity regulations have led artists to perform the same show twice in one night.

Regardless, the optimism and gratitude among artists is an endearing thing. We’re all recognizing it’s time to sing our hearts more than ever before, after so much angst kept inside. You’re not projecting to your screen anymore, you’re singing to dozens, hundreds, thousands of people.

It’s part challenge, for stepping out of the shell again, and part relief after being put on hold for so long.

Returning live music is a rollercoaster

Amidst the emotions themselves, the beauty of being back to work in person, the world is still full of surprises.

As if this year wasn’t enough of a rollercoaster, the mythical Montreux Jazz Festival was compromised by the weather. We’ve taken enough heartbreak and deception recently that it’s hard to believe rain would stop anything from happening.

But with the climate crisis reaching frightening heights of its own, the weather did indeed cause havoc over the past couple of weeks.

However, after overcoming what we did, artists’ perseverance and persistence proved to be stronger than ever. Take Sam Fischer, who within two hours saw his show canceled, reinstated, and then postponed by two hours, to finally get on stage after midnight.

As he waited for news on whether he’d perform that night or not, the singer took to Instagram with an endearing post, that further reminded us there are things we can’t control… but that music still prevails.

Artists performing live are here to stay

Indeed, it’s crazy to think that during the hardest of times we didn’t really have the one thing that best helps us escape hurt, pain, or loneliness.

Many artists are to thank for their creativity and ability to keep their magic alive in spite of it all. But being back only further proves that the digital realm just doesn’t compare especially when it comes to music. Venues need to open for the real magic to take place.

It’s not a done deal, and unfortunately, many places are still struggling. However, we’re here to fight, and we’re here to stay, because as much as it may be a luxury, live music is a necessity. It makes us feel alive. And the magic of being back live is something everyone can rally behind.

The world going green: deal by deal, continent by continent

The climate crisis is pressing. We hear about it every day, talk about it every day, and unfortunately, we see it every day. Its increasing urgency is a reminder that every little action towards preservation counts. Yet still, in the grand scheme of things, big numbers can become overwhelming to the individual. Climate and energy legislation is what will make the real difference.

On the European Green Deal, the Commission’s focus will be overhauling our relevant climate and energy legislation to align with the newly proposed target to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030, as compared to 1990 levels. 

European Commission

We can’t waste time with the climate crisis

After calling the Paris agreement a “disaster” and pulling the U.S from the climate accord, Trump left the country hanging in a critical environmental state.

Before he was elected, Biden made promises aiming to achieve the Green New Deal objectives, with investments in clean energy that exceed 2 trillion dollars. Unfortunately, those are currently being somewhat compromised.

Between the recently endorsed bipartisan infrastructure deal criticized for going against some of the President’s initial promises, and also Louisiana’s Federal Judge Terry Doughty seeking to halt Biden’s ban on offshore gas and oil leases, the obstacles are abundant.

But positive prospects are ahead and meanwhile, the rest of the world isn’t stopping. In fact, these days may be open to greater opportunities than ever before.

A green light ahead

Indeed, as we seem to slowly be coming out of these unprecedented times, our society finds itself at a rare crossroads. With the hope of recovering the economic wreckages of the pandemic, many decisions are being made. More than ever, we have the opportunity to make long-term choices that can impact our planet in a positive way.

While Asia hasn’t yet declared an official “Green Deal,” several of its Southeastern countries are opting for sustainable alternatives to their energy production.

From developing hydroelectric power plants in Laos, to infrastructure investments in countries like Vietnam and the Philippines to overcome their reliance on coal and fossil fuel imports, changes are being made.

The necessity for fiscal stimulus engendered by the pandemic is thus an opportunity to couple such investments with long-term sustainability goals.

Even big deals start with small steps

The European Commission recently declared its own Green Deal for 2050.

That’s in less than 29 years, which is a little mind-boggling to wrap our heads around at home. While these timelines highlight that the world won’t change overnight, they also mean we can’t wait 28 years to make changes to face the climate crisis.

Because as easy as it is to lose sight of what saving our planet means, especially in an economically driven society, plans are laid out for a reason. And as cheesy as it may sound and as far from us as they may feel at times, those changes still begin with us.

We will put forward a series of measures on smart and sustainable transport, including a revision of the Regulation on the trans-European transport network and of the Directive on intelligent transport systems. We will continue the implementation of the circular economy action plan, looking at eco-design and sustainable products, in particular circular electronics, including improving the collection, reuse and repair of mobile phones, laptops and other devices. 

European Commission

The circular economy concept has been put to work in recent years, where the way our economy is run would attempt to mirror the renewable cycle of nature itself.

Switch 2 Green is an initiative funded by the European Commission, offering assistance to all with one goal: going green. In addition to its services, the platform is home to everything you need to know about the matter, including country-specific case studies.

One of many, they are there to inspire positive change for our planet.

Press to social media: the pressure of being an athlete in the spotlight

Competitive sports as they are, are a challenge of their own. Athletes removed from opponents, from the media, from the pressure of thousands of eyes watching your every move… mastering a discipline is difficult enough.

From a distance, we idolize sports stars whether from the bleachers or on a screen. But our growing digital practices continue to feed into a whirlwind of chaos that isn’t always a source of positivity for the athlete.

The pressures athletes deal with

The pressure for athletes of participating in competitions with an entire nation or the world rooting for them is something only those who have trained for world-level championships can know.

Shared experiences of the heights of glory and depths of pressure from athlete to athlete might be as far as relating goes.

The press opens doors that can perhaps bring us closer to those athletes we support and admire. Those we can be critical of only with the best of intentions. Because we care.

But the grandiosity of media today sometimes makes us quick to judge.

Making mistakes, making choices

The truth is it’s difficult to see those we cherish and support make compromising decisions or admit to being unwell.

As a result, we and the press often give ourselves an over-proportionate amount of importance in judging athletes’ behaviors and states of being.

When in fact, time after time, and in spite of consequences, athletes have often stood by their words and actions. One of the biggest challenges athletes face in competitive sports is dealing with their own mental health.

The outrage following Sha’Carri Richardson’s suspension from the upcoming Olympics was in considerable part the result of social media backlash.

The debate that arose is very complex and with many implications. All of which were not initially sparked by the athlete herself. Not to take away value from the questions raised, but within the craze following such a turn of events, we sometimes forget one thing:

“Athletes are human.”

Naomi Osaka via Times Magazine

Naomi Osaka just spoke for Time Magazine in view of the upcoming Olympics for which she will be returning.

Following her refusal to attend a Roland Garros press conference for her personal wellbeing, the tennis player saw herself having to withdraw from the tournament.

Today, she addresses mental health as an athlete and is becoming the voice for many regarding that issue, reminding the world that “It’s O.K. not to be O.K.

Outdated and up for change

Earlier this week, the world-class runner Richardson admitted and apologized for her mistake, acknowledging the decision she made.

The difficulty in seeing a champion side-step urges us to find solutions and reasoning elsewhere. But just like each and every one of us, an athlete won’t be perfect and no one can require them to be.

There may be fights to be fought and changes to be made, but the easy access to media sometimes has us lose sight of what should be argued for the athlete’s sake rather than our own desire to respond to conflict.

In her piece for Time, Osaka calls for change in the tournament press system, thinking it to be outdated and lacking the humanity it needs. It seems humanity is the keyword we’re losing touch with through our society’s growing media forces.

Osaka suggests a more “peer to peer” rather than “subject to object” approach to the press-athlete relationship. While social media platforms are by nature designed for peer exchange, they have their toxic characteristics as well. The scrutiny over celebrities in general is an issue falling out of hand.

Coupled with the existing pressures of being an Olympic athlete, the spotlight exacerbates our expectations and further alienates individuals like Richardson. Let’s have a conversation with those athletes in consideration. But let’s remember, they’re human too.

What makes Parley for the oceans? The platform is saving the world

Lodged on the 5th floor of NYC’s Lafayette Street, Parley for the Oceans is an environmental conservation and collaborative organization advocating for a critical cause: protecting our oceans.

The initiative was launched by Cyril Gutsch in 2012 hoping to encourage a business culture where sustainability is economically more attractive than pollution.

With recent events and the increasing awareness and urgency of the climate crisis, the platform is reaching new heights.

Parley for the Oceans

Parley believes in bringing together individuals from all arenas (scientists, creatives, governments, corporations, activists, etc.) to stimulate our collective creativity.

Indeed, science may be the source of understanding this ongoing emergency. But the organization’s spirit is rooted in finding solutions through our human imagination too.

“Artists, musicians, actors, filmmakers, fashion designers, journalists, architects, product inventors, and scientists have the tools to mold the reality we live in and to develop alternative business models and ecologically sensible products to give us earthlings an alternative choice, an everyday option to change something.”

Parley for the Oceans

“If the oceans die, we die”

With these words spoken by Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, Parley events have united a plethora of influential voices.

From renowned independent adventurers and photographers to ecologists, artists, athletes, and environmental activists the organization is set to reach leaders and creatives around the world.

“Every second breath we take is generated by the oceans. The oceans give us life. We give them plastic. Let’s invent our way out of this. Together.” 

Parley’s Air Pledge

Something in the way we’ve led our lives until today has allowed us to believe we reign this planet, when truthfully we’re just “on board”. Like many other species, we’re here for the ride, but with one difference: most of them are essential for the Earth’s functioning.

Without them, we can’t be. Yet many of our everyday little activities are letting those vital elements perish slowly. Parley is about directing our energy to inspire an improved lifestyle rather than pave a single path solution to the climate crisis.

Take action in protecting our oceans

“Avoid, intercept, redesign” are the three key words to Parley’s advocacy for creativity and collaboration. For innovation. For step by step ideas and missions to be brought to life.

True as it may be, it is terribly overwhelming to think to ourselves “we have to save the planet,” since 70 percent of the Earth is water, and we know hardly more than what lies just beneath the surface of the oceans’ wonders.

Yet we continue to trash that unknown before getting to know it.

With cleanup programs in the Maldives, Argentina, Canada, Sri Lanka, as well as the US, only to name a few, there might be a project for you to join near home. The journey towards recovering life on this planet begins at its four corners and with each and every one of us.

And it doesn’t end there… Pitch your project, start a movement of your own, launch a fundraiser… If you have an idea, Parley is the place to have it heard.

The possibilities are endless, and excuses are few and far between. However small you start, your action in protecting our oceans matters. And Parley is here to inspire you and let you inspire others.

Why close domestic travel is more important now than ever

This year of staying in has likely given us a stronger desire to travel than ever before. Being home within the same four walls only invigorated the urge people had to visit something new, unfamiliar, exotic. Seeing the kitchen counter or the driveway just doesn’t hit the same… but that doesn’t mean all close domestic travel is mundane.

Somehow, being restricted to an environment we thought we knew inside out, perhaps let us realize how little we knew after all.

The streets you never saw

Granted, this doesn’t sound all that exciting. But COVID walks became a thing, right?

Instead of sitting down for coffee, you grabbed it to go and walked for hours with the friend you were meeting. You turned corners you never knew existed. Worked out outside on the piers by the Hudson in New York or your local park.

And in LA, hiked up Runyon Canyon more times than you would have dared to bet.

We came to cherish the simple things more than we ever did, and realized privilege was in places where we might have seen none before.

Close domestic travel became a new way to explore, uncurling back the layers of places we thought we knew as well as the back of our hand.

In spite of the excitement from travel reopening that’s something too precious to let go of.

Flying, flying

Naturally, if you can, go visit the family members you haven’t seen in months. Go on the honeymoon that was canceled or the trip you had been saving for. Most people have an insatiable desire to travel, and that is a good thing. We should want to learn more about the world.

Hopefully, those will turn out even more meaningful, because as essential as travel is for culture and knowledge of our world, the immediacy and limitless access society has grown accustomed to is something that had yet to be put in perspective.

It’s difficult to realize just how many planes were in the sky on a regular basis in previous times. Opening your local flight radar when there were supposedly “no planes” going anywhere was scary. There were still so many.

Travel but make close and domestic

This isn’t a call to stop flying or discovering the world if you are lucky to.

But simply one to acknowledge that regardless of restrictions this “travel bug” never left us. We were just able to satisfy it with less for a while and appreciate the beautiful things that lie around us. From road trips to train rides, our eyes may have opened a little along with our minds.

To be overly general: New Yorkers took to Sag Harbour or The Hamptons. Even day trips to Coney Island, or picnics in Central Park peaked in their appeal and hopefully will continue to be a thing. Drives to Vermont to be surrounded by nature, or to Big Sur from LA for some peace and quiet.

It took a minute, but I took the opportunity to visit places I had never been in my home country. Places I honestly wouldn’t have particularly thought of as “vacation” destinations prior to this year. I’m not saying it replaces it.

Considering the past year as “hard times” is an understatement for most, and a desire to travel is the first thing on many people’s wishlists. But when you come back, it might be worth keeping your eyes open, because we tend to miss what’s right there in front of us.