Tiny, family-run Iowa newspaper wins Pulitzer for taking on agriculture companies

Tiny, family-run Iowa newspaper wins Pulitzer for taking on agriculture companies

A small-town Iowa newspaper with a staff of 10 people – most of whom are related to each other – has won a Pulitzer Prize for taking on powerful agricultural companies over farm pollution.

Art Cullen, who owns the Storm Lake Times with his brother John, acknowledged it wasn’t easy taking on agriculture in a state like Iowa where you see hundreds of miles of farm fields in every direction. The Cullens lost a few friends and a few advertisers, but never doubted they were doing the right thing.

“We’re here to challenge people’s assumptions and I think that’s what every good newspaper should do,” he said.

Among the other staff members at the Storm Lake Times is John Cullen’s wife Mary, Art’s wife Dolores and their son, Tom. The family’s dog, Mabel also hangs out at the newspaper offices most of the time, Poynter reports.

Cullen’s writing was lauded by the Pulitzer committee for “editorials fuelled by tenacious reporting, impressive expertise and engaging writing that successfully challenged powerful corporate agricultural interests in Iowa”.

As well as hard-hitting news and editorials, the paper also includes local stories. On Monday, a front-page story told of how a second-grader found a four-leaf clover in the field behind her school.

Cullen told the Washington Post that he knows what readers like. “We strive to have a baby, a dog, a fire and a crash on every front page, so, yes, we do pander,” he said.

But it was the paper’s dogged coverage of farming issues affecting the state that won them the coveted journalism prize.

Buena Vista county, where the 3,000-circulation, twice-weekly newspaper is based in north-west Iowa, was one of three counties sued by Des Moines Water Works for allowing too much nitrogen to be released through farm drainage systems into rivers from which the utility draws its drinking water. The counties fought the federal lawsuit using money provided by undisclosed sources.

The newspaper worked with the Iowa Freedom of Information Council to force the release of documents showing funding came from the Farm Bureau and other agricultural groups.

“Anyone with eyes and a nose knows in his gut that Iowa has the dirtiest surface water in America,” Cullen wrote in a March 2016 editorial.

“It is choking the waterworks and the Gulf of Mexico. It is causing oxygen deprivation in Northwest Iowa glacial lakes. It has caused us to spend millions upon millions trying to clean up Storm Lake, the victim of more than a century of explosive soil erosion.”

Cullen, 59, says he feels vindicated that the information was released.

A judge, however, dismissed the water utility’s lawsuit last month, giving the farm groups and counties a clear victory.

Cullen is proud that the Pulitzer committee recognised his small newspaper’s efforts alongside those of larger papers. The two other finalists in the editorial writing category were from the Houston Chronicle and The Washington Post.

“We’ve always believed that the Storm Lakes Times should be as good at covering Storm Lake as the New York Times is at covering New York,” he said. “There’s no reason why an editorial written in Iowa shouldn’t be as good as an editorial written in Washington.”

Associated Press contributed to this report

Ontario man, giving home away for free, paying the cost of food and vet bills, to ensure his animals are taken care of properly.

Ontario man, giving home away for free, paying the cost of food and vet bills, to ensure his animals are taken care of properly.

A Smith Falls, Ontario man has a very interesting reason as to why he wants to give away all of his farm and land.

Sunday, April 9, 2017, 5:57 PM – This is the kind of offer you can’t refuse.

Stephen Overbury is giving away his waterfront farm, including four barns, a 1830s beautiful stone home, some equipment and a vehicle, “ABSOLUTELY FREE OF CHARGE,” according to a Kijiji ad he posted earlier this week.

The 62-year-old’s farm is located near Smiths Falls in eastern Ontario. Overbury is looking for the perfect person to take over his humble abode as he is planning on moving back to Japan where he lived for about 15 years, according to CBC.

Why has he decided to give away his fortune instead of selling it?

SPRING IS HERE: With La Niña helping shape global patterns what will Canadians expect from spring? Find out with The Weather Network’s 2017 Spring Forecast | FORECAST & MAPS HERE

“[Selling] is conventional thinking, the prudent way of thinking about yourself and what’s best for yourself,” Overbury told the news agency. “By selling the farm, first I’d have to dispose of the animals. And a number of them are older, and a few are special-needs. And that’s what I call reckless abandonment.”

Here’s the catch: you have to be an animal lover and not afraid to get your hands dirty.

Overbury will pay the cost of food and vet bills for the array of animals on the farm including, cows, chickens, ducks and sheep, according to CBC.

“The catch for assuming usage of this stellar property, make no mistake about it, is HARD WORK and total COMMITMENT to making use of the property and showing a genuine interest in animal welfare,” the ad reads. “Here, no animal is killed. I am vegan oriented but you need not to be of course as long as you live and let live. And THINK GREEN.”

While the farmer briefly looked into relocating his animals, he told CBC that it would take “decades” to find the right home for each one.

Overbury has received hundreds of offers so far, the news agency reports.

If he can’t find the perfect candidate, Overbury plans on staying in Ontario. However, he has high hopes that the right person will come along.

“It’s not a matter of giving [the land] up,” he told CBC. “I never had it, as such. We’re but custodians of real estate, [which] is my philosophy, my own personal philosophy,” Overbury added.

“And I know that somebody else coming in, that’s the right fit, will treat the animals with compassion — and I’ll benefit from that comfort.”

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Tomahawk maker’s stock Raytheon rises after U.S. launches missiles against Syria

Tomahawk maker’s stock Raytheon rises after U.S. launches missiles against Syria

Raytheon, the company that makes the Tomahawk missiles used in the air strikes on Syria by the United States, is rising in early stock trading Friday. Investors seem to be betting President Trump’s decision to retaliate against Syria after the chemical attack on Syrian citizens earlier this week may mean the Pentagon will need more Tomahawks.
The Department of Defense asked for $2 billion over five years to buy 4,000 Tomahawks for the U.S. Navy in its fiscal 2017 budget last February. Nearly five dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched at military bases in Syria from U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea late Thursday. Raytheon (RTN) wasn’t the only defense stock rising Friday either. Lockheed Martin (LMT), which partners with Raytheon on the Javelin missile launcher system and also makes Hellfire missiles, gained nearly 1%. Related: Trump’s Syria air strike is a warning for Wall Street too Defense stocks General Dynamics (GD) and Northrop Grumman (NOC) also rallied Friday, a day when the broader market was flat due to a mixed U.S. jobs report. It’s unclear whether President Trump and his Defense Secretary James Mattis will ask for a lot more money for Tomahawks once they officially submit a fiscal 2018 budget request. But Trump said in his preliminary budget blueprint last month that a broad increase in defense spending was needed. A sizable chunk of that was earmarked for upgrading warships, fighter planes and missiles. And Republican Senator John McCain, who is also chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a proposed defense budget that he published in late January that it was critical to invest even more on advanced missile technology. Related: Oil prices jump after U.S. missile strike on Syria So it should come as no surprise that defense stocks are among the top performers on Wall Street not just on Friday, but for all of this year. The SPDR SP Aerospace Defense ETF (XAR) has outperformed the SP 500 so far. And shares of Boeing (BA) are up 14%, making it the second-best stock in the Dow, trailing only Apple (AAPL, Tech30). CNNMoney (New York) First published April 7, 2017: 10:59 AM ET

this young Aboriginal man dreams of becoming a Kakadu ranger, like his grandfather. But to become the strong leader his family sees in him, he’s leaving his beloved homeland behind.

this young Aboriginal man dreams of becoming a Kakadu ranger, like his grandfather. But to become the strong leader his family sees in him, he’s leaving his beloved homeland behind.

Junior Dirdi dreams of becoming a Kakadu ranger, like his grandfather. But to become the strong Aboriginal leader his family sees in him, he’s leaving his beloved homeland behind.

“You see that big rock?” Junior Dirdi points from the 4WD as it makes its way along the rugged dirt road, paving the way through croc-infested wetlands.

“That’s the dog with three legs. There were two dogs, one broke her leg and went back there.”

This majestic escarpment country filled with ancient dreaming stories has the ability to make outsiders feel as if they’re in another world. Or a movie set. Quite literally.

“In Crocodile Dundee, you know when he says ‘you should’ve brought a gun instead of a beer mate’? ” Junior says with a grin.

“And then he says ‘I don’t need a gun, I’ve got a donk’. That’s here at Red Lily.”

The 1986 blockbuster film follows an Australian bushman on a journey to New York, playing on the colossal contrasts between life in the outback and the big smoke.

Junior Dirdi will spend his formative years navigating between these two ways of life.

At just 13, he’s leaving behind his home in this remote community on the border of the Kakadu National Park, in search of a better education on the opposite side of the country.

He’ll board at one of Melbourne’s most elite colleges, 3,800 kilometres from the only life he’s ever known.

Walking between these two worlds will not be easy. It never has been. It’s a path marked with a dark historical strain, and Junior can expect confusion, emotion, sacrifice. After all, this is not a Hollywood movie script.

But Junior’s parents believe school in Melbourne will help him grow into a leader, able to straddle modern Australia while keeping his ancient culture alive.

His mum Darlene Wauchope hopes new horizons will let her boy soar.

When you first meet Junior, he’s quiet and shy. Once he warms up, he’s a little cheeky.

Often he’ll disappear, like the time we chartered a flight to visit him and he was nowhere to be found.

Within half an hour it gets back that he’s at ‘little waterfall’, an idyllic swimming hole just out of town which offers relief from the hot air, so humid that sweat patches quickly fade into head-to-toe dampness.

There are no crocodiles here, he assures. Let’s just pretend one wasn’t found in this exact spot a few weeks later.

The vividness of these burning reds and lush greens set against moody monsoonal storm clouds will stay with you a long time after you leave.

For Junior, the country is imprinted on his soul.

This is Gunbalanya, also known as Oenpelli, a former mission site located in West Arnhem Land.

The settlement is encompassed by the Arnhem plateau, a sandstone refuge for many endangered species.

With a fluctuating population of about 1,200, many different clan groups live in Oenpelli and several nearby outstations.

Visitors are required to apply for permits to cross into this territory. It’s currently wet season, which means residents are pretty much cut off from the outside world.

At the moment the only way into town is via charter flight, which often means a nervous ride cutting through turbulent clouds.

It takes a good couple of days to settle into West Arnhem’s slow pace of life.

As soon as Junior gets out of town, his free spirit shines.

He transforms from a coy teenager into a strong and proud young man.

He and his five brothers and sisters know how to look out for each other as they confidently plunge into waterholes and scramble barefoot up cliffs to search for bush tucker.

Just last year Junior had his first initiation ceremony.

It’s men’s business, so he’s not allowed to talk about it, but it’s a chance for teenagers to prove themselves ready for manhood in front of their fathers and uncles.

“It turns young boys into men,” Junior says.

But fast-forward a couple of weeks, from the banks of the golden billabong where Junior likes to hunt for magpie geese, to Flinders Street Station, one of the busiest spots in Melbourne’s CBD, and it’s like observing a completely different kid.

There’s an obvious nervous edge to his demeanour in the hustle of peak-hour rush.

Less of the man, more of the boy. He’s still finding his place here.

It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed on Junior’s behalf.

He’ll spend the next five years at Trinity Grammar boarding school as part of a scholarship.

But his charisma means he’s had no problem making friends.

With the help of Indigenous mentors, he’s starting to settle in to year eight.

“Coming from Darwin myself, I understand the homesickness and being away from family and being away from your community,” his mentor, Kelvin Williams says.

“It’s really impressive to see these boys and the character that they show to come down here and continue to want to improve their education.”

Different is an understatement. To begin with, there are the very obvious adaptations that smack you in the face as hard as a frosty Melbourne chill.

“It’s funny weather; it changes. Like, one day it’ll be hot, the next day it’ll be cold, and then another it’ll be windy, rainy,” Junior says.

“It’s very different. Seeing a whole lot of new people, traffic, lots of cars, lots of big buildings.”

And if those differences aren’t big enough, try transporting a kid from the bush into the almost alien environment of an elite private school, walls clad with accolades from former students turned barristers, prolific authors and sport stars.

There are many nuances that wouldn’t seem like such a big deal without getting an understanding of Junior’s Gunbalanya life.

“Here we have to put on a blazer, grey socks,” Junior says. “It takes a lot longer to get ready to come to school.”

Or getting a detention for not having his diary signed. He didn’t have a diary in the Top End.

But by far, the freedom to roam is his biggest adjustment.

Most of his school holidays in Gunbalanya are spent fixing quad bikes with friends, or splashing around in streams with family.

There are no assigned supervisors, but admired elders and a collective community that helps rear the children.

There are no fences restricting movement, rather an encouragement to explore and respect the land.

And there are very few rules set by institutions, governing things like appearance, dress and curfews.

The same can’t be said for Trinity Grammar.

“Back at home, if we want to swim, we go down to the pool. But at the boarding house we’ve got to have one of the tutors there watching us,” Junior says.

“The bush is like my playground. I miss it. Fishing, hunting.”

There’s a long journey ahead, but Junior is confident the path will lead him back home.

Darlene’s father James Wauchope was one of the first rangers at Kakadu National Park.

His grandfather is now in aged care but has a lasting legacy in the world heritage site, and with his grandson, who shares his connection to country.

“I spent a lot of time with him. He taught me country and lands,” Junior says.

But his family came from around the Alice Springs area, before he was taken as part of the Stolen Generations and put in an orphanage.

“We’re not originally from the countries that we take care of,” Darlene says.

Her brothers are also rangers.

“We’re originally from Alice Springs or part of Croker [Island], but we love being rangers, and this side of NT, north-west Arnhem Land it’s just lovely,” she says.

“It’s a family thing, it’s a tradition that really died out until Junior popped along.

“[So] it’s really awesome.”

When asked where he pictures himself in 15 years, Junior takes time to consider his answer.

“Probably in a chopper, in Kakadu,” he says. “Shooting feral animals.”

As the sun rises over the tranquil wetlands, a quiet morning turns into a sleepy day in Gunbalanya

Many locals load up their cars and head out bush.

Junior’s family packs lunch for a fishing trip, piles into the troop-carrier and makes their way towards looming clouds above Coopers Creek.

English is often a second language here, but when everyone’s together in the Dirdi household that’s how they communicate, because Darlene and Junior’s dad Kingswood, his namesake, speak different languages.

During play, the children speak Kingswood’s tongue Kunwinjku, the main language around here.

Along the bumpy ride, Junior explains how the river divides country governed by traditional owners.

This is knowledge that’s been passed down by his grandfather, and during the ‘Junior Ranger’ bush program, run for young people in the community.

“This is Gumurdul’s country, but at the freeway it cuts off,” he says.

“On the other side of the river, that’s belongs to Nayingul.”

These are powerful families in the community.

It’s respectful for people doing business in the area to visit elders during their stay.

When the 4WD pulls up at Coopers Creek, elder Adrian Gumurdul and his family are already there fishing and cooking a wild pig.

Adrian Gumurdul is proud to hear about Junior’s plans.

“Junior is my grandson, you know,” he says.

Adrian’s a relative on Kingswood’s side of the family, but as part of their kinship system he is considered Junior’s grandfather.

“I’m a bit happy myself, because his mother came down to tell me about Junior going to go and tell a story about being a ranger.”

It’s refreshing for the traditional owner, who’s scared that what is left of their 40,000-year-old culture may soon be completely lost.

“Because older people, they might pass away and we’ve got young people to do the job.

“All the family would be proud for that.”

As he prepares the meat for an earth oven pit beneath the soil, Adrian laments that local young people tend to be more interested in hip hop music than traditional song and dance.

“They want to go to the disco,” he says. “That’s the problem, we want to get young boys involved in culture more.

As close as culture and country may be to his heart, the elder doesn’t want youngsters in the community to close themselves off from the outside world.

In fact, he encourages the opposite.

Junior’s goal to be a park ranger could be pursued through a land management course in Darwin, and through education pathways at the local school.

But Adrian Gumurdul welcomes Junior living down south and returning with new ideas and inspiration.

Junior has mixed emotions as he boards the plane from Darwin, knowing it’ll be a couple of months before he sees his siblings and cousins again.

As hard as it may be to see him venture so far away from home, Darlene and Kingswood have big dreams for their boy.

There are no pressures for him to become a doctor or a lawyer, or to be at the top of his class.

Their wish is that a better education and more diverse social experiences will give him the foundations to walk confidently in both worlds.

“When you’re in a remote community, there’s not much you can do but footy,” Darlene says.

Darlene encourages his dreams to be a park ranger, but believes the opportunity to study in Melbourne means he could choose to move beyond that role one day, maybe even representing the land alongside Kakadu’s traditional owners.

“He doesn’t [just] want to be a ranger, he actually wants to be a part and maybe [help] run the park one day.

And he’s keen for his offspring to step up as advocates for his people and their culture.

After all, the voices of First Australians tend to be silenced by waves of political rhetoric.

“Dealing with funding, budgeting and housing or roads, infrastructure. We’d love to be able to see young kids such as Junior be able to get up there and talk for their home,” Kingswood says.

Junior’s strength of character is the reason he was chosen for a new education program that helps bush kids make the step to big city schools.

MITS (Melbourne Indigenous Transition School) brings 22 Aboriginal students from around Australia to their Melbourne boarding house, and spends 12 months helping to prepare them for mainstream education.

It then helps place them with different private schools that offer scholarships.

Now in its second year, MITS aims to bridge the gap between remote and capital city standards, executive officer Edward Tudor says.

“Often a step from a home community to a big Melbourne school was just too great,” he says.

“Each of the students at MITS has the innate capability to go well at school, but sometimes they haven’t had the opportunity to really soar academically.”

MITS was founded by Edward’s parents, veterinarian Liz Tudor and Rick Tudor, the former headmaster of Trinity where Junior now goes to school.

Both of them have spent a lot of time in Indigenous communities, including Gunbalanya.

Edward says they noticed an increasing demand for greater opportunities.

The high school back in Gunbalanya just celebrated its own success, with the largest number of students having ever graduated from a Northern Territory community school.

But there’s still a long way to go.

According to the latest Closing the Gap report, about 62 per cent of Indigenous students finished year 12 or equivalent. And that figure is just 42 per cent in remote areas, compared with 86 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians.

An extra 31,300 Aboriginal students will need to complete year 12 by 2020 to meet the Government’s own target to halve the gap.

Boarding school is likely to play a large part in that.

Last year about 3,400 Indigenous children attended boarding school around the country.

It’s almost school holidays and like many of the kids boarding around the country, Junior is preparing to return to his family.

He can almost feel the humidity on his skin, the magpie goose melting in his mouth, and the freedom available to the eagle above the billabong.

Darlene and Kingswood hope that over the next few years their boy finds his wings. And one day flies back home.

Dutch men hold hands in solidarity with beaten gay couple

Dutch men hold hands in solidarity with beaten gay couple

AMSTERDAM — In a simple act of solidarity, same-sex couples and many others across the Netherlands have held hands this week to protest the beating of two gay men — an attack that shook a nation that has long prided itself on its tolerance.

The beating in the eastern city of Arnhem was far from isolated in the Netherlands, long seen as one of the world’s most welcoming to same-sex couples. The city’s mayor conducted the world’s first gay marriages in 2001.

But it has touched a raw nerve in this nation whose tolerance on other fronts has eroded in recent years with the rise of anti-Islam and anti-immigrant populism and a crackdown on the country’s famed liberal drug policies.

On Wednesday evening hundreds of people walked hand-in-hand through the streets of Amsterdam to express solidarity with the victims of the beating in the early hours of Sunday.

Police said the men told officers they were verbally abused by a group of youths because they were walking hand-in-hand over a bridge. In the confrontation that followed, both men were injured, and one had his front teeth smashed out.

“I find it really absurd, unbelievable, and this is feeling like we are going backwards,” said Sjag Kozak, an Israeli who married his husband in Amsterdam and has lived in the freewheeling Dutch capital for 21 years. “So that’s why we’re here: To make a statement to let people know that we are moving forward and not going backwards.”

A well-known magazine publisher and journalist, Barbara Barend, triggered the action when she appealed on Twitter: “Can all men (hetero and homo) please just walk hand in hand this week …”

That sparked the viral hashtag “allemannenhandinhand” (all men hand-in-hand,) with everybody from the Dutch deputy prime minister and finance minister to sports stars and TV personalities posting pictures of themselves holding hands.

In one of the highest profile demonstrations of solidarity, two politicians involved in talks to form a new ruling coalition following last month’s elections walked hand-in-hand across a square in Parliament.

“In the Netherlands we think that it’s normal to be able to show who you are as a person, but apparently for some people it’s not,” said lawmaker Alexander Pechtold.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte weighed in, too, calling the Arnhem incident “terrible.”

Five suspects, all in their teens, were to be charged Thursday with causing serious bodily harm, prosecutors said, adding that they are still investigating the motive of the attack.

Dutch gay rights organization COC says that 70 percent of gay, bisexual and transgender people in the Netherlands have suffered verbal or physical violence. The number of complaints filed with police has risen from 428 in 2009 to 1,574 in 2015, according to spokesman Philip Tijsma.

However Tijsma said it isn’t clear if the number of attacks is on the rise or if victims are becoming more willing to report such violence to police.

“Dutch people are still tolerant,” Tijsma said. “We are still worried about it, but it is not like you can’t be safe on the streets of Amsterdam.”

Barend, who helped start the campaign, called for a sustained change in attitudes.

“Once again, let’s not leave it at this — politicians, police, everybody, let’s make sure that really all men can go hand-in-hand along the street,” she tweeted.

And while the campaign may have started in the Netherlands, it didn’t end there. Here are some examples of its global reach:

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Graffiti dying out as artists switch to social media, say academics

Graffiti dying out as artists switch to social media, say academics

Graffiti is disappearing from Britain’s streets as young men turn to social media to make a name for themselves, according to research.

A sociologist says former street artists are now sharing work on Internet sites rather than public buildings, reporting “the rich kids of Instagram have killed the graffiti writer”.

Academic Nicola Harding, who noted the trend by speaking to graffiti writers and scouring online images, is to reveal her findings today (WEDS) at the British Sociological Association’s annual conference in Manchester.

She found that, since the early 2000s, graffiti artists were increasingly writing on council-run “legal walls” where street art was allowed and then getting interest by sharing this work online.

In this way they avoid the risk of arrest or injury that spraying graffiti near train lines or other off-limits places could bring, she said. It also means they have no need to deface buildings with their “tags” in order to build a reputation.

“Contemporary graffiti writing is changing – it is no longer an activity that is played out in urban environments, but also on the internet,” she said.

But only better-off graffiti writers could afford the tools to create a large effective online presence, said Ms Harding, of Manchester Metropolitan University.

“Graffiti has been a way for young men of low socio-economic status to take risks to achieve sub-cultural kudos. But now better-off artists are able to … bypass the risk associated with urban graffiti writing. In this way the rich kids of Instagram have killed the graffiti writer.”

Random Customer Surprises Popeyes Employee by Paying for Her Nursing School Education

Random Customer Surprises Popeyes Employee by Paying for Her Nursing School Education

One Popeyes employee in Kansas City received the surprise of her life when a customer raised $14,000 for her to attend nursing school and pursue her dreams.

Donald Carter, a retired Kansas City cop, explains that he ordered some fried chicken at the drive-thru from employee Shajuana Mays and noted the “spark” of determination from the “polite and respectful” young woman.

“As I messily crunch on some really untasty fried chicken, I get this idea,” Carter said. “What if I got some friends together and we put this girl through school to get her CNA license?”

That’s exactly what he did. Carter set up a GoFundMe page and over the course of a little over a week, raised $14,300, about ten times the amount it costs to take a CNA Course, pay for taking the test, and get a license. The extra funds could help her become an RN, which requires more education and will eventually pay a higher salary.

“You kind people who are reading this helped it, made it happen,” Donald said on the GoFundMe page. “You are still making it happen. You are the ones who are changing the life of one young lady and the lives of others and your own life in the process. You are changing the world — your world.”

Watch the video of Mays’ reaction below:

India’s forest cover increasing, better than world average, says Union environment secretary – Times of India

India’s forest cover increasing, better than world average, says Union environment secretary – Times of India

DEHRADUN: Ajay Narayan Jha, secretary, ministry of environment and forests , said at the inauguration of the 19th Commonwealth forestry conference that began at the Forest Research Institute Dehradun , on Monday, that India’s forest cover has improved in comparison to the world average. “The world over, average per capita forest cover has declined from 0.8 ha to 0.6 ha per person but in India, a net increase of 1.82% forest cover has been registered in the past 30 years,” Jha said.He pointed out that the country had 24% forest cover with 7 billion tonnes of carbon sink — a natural reservoir that absorbs carbon and helps counter the effects of global warming. “We have to add 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes to the carbon sink by 2030. This will be done by planting trees outside the forests near highways or in agro-forestry sector,” the secretary said. Former director general of forests SS Negi who was also present at the conference, said that the target of increasing the sink would be met by growing 100 crore trees over a period of ten years. “Around 1000 trees would be planted on one hectare outside the forests,” he said.Earlier, while inaugurating the 5-day long conference which was attended by around 500 delegates, Uttarakhand governor KK Paul said that various stakeholders must work together to tackle deforestation “Protection of forests is important for reducing disaster risk and greenhouse emissions. Governments, the private sector, local authorities, NGOs, and indigenous people — all need to work for it. Recent research has shown that the cash and non-cash incomes of the rural poor depend to a very high degree on what the forestry and environmental professionals now call the ‘ecosystem services’ provided by varied forests. Protecting forests, therefore, not only makes sense for reducing disaster risk and greenhouse emissions; it also makes pro-poor sense,” the governor said.Anil Madhav Dave, union environment minister through video conferencing, expressed hope that the deliberations would lead to “carving out the roadmap to support holistic developmental agenda and establishing links between forests and communities.”Addressing the gathering, John Innes, chairman, standing committee on commonwealth forestry reminisced that the conference had come back to India after almost 50 years. “It is a matter of coincidence that the forestry sector was changing at that point of time then and is again on the verge of change, given the challenges of climate change and meeting the sustainable developmental agenda .”

Teacher who asked students to predict their futures delivers their letters – 24 years later: Student wanted to be mother and teacher…she did it!

Teacher who asked students to predict their futures delivers their letters – 24 years later: Student wanted to be mother and teacher…she did it!

EAST MARLBOROUGH When Fred Stauffer was an environmental teacher at Unionville High School back in the 1990s, he came up with an original idea to give his students an assignment to write a letter to themselves, and predict what their future would be like.

That future, 24 years later, is here.

Last month, Stauffer, with the help of Megan Plunkett-Cromer, delivered letters from students in Stauffer’s 1993 and 1994 classes. Stauffer didn’t read them all, but some of the ones he did read were doom and gloom, others eerily prophetic.

“Some of the stories were interesting,” Stauffer said. “They were supposed to be kids writing letters to themselves. Some were doomsdayers, others were pretty positive. It was a lot of fun.”

who turned 40 in April and was a student in Stauffer’s class, was surprised when Stauffer showed up at her house unannounced. Stauffer found her home when he went to her parents’ house first, and they directed him to her house right down the street.

“He gave my letter to me,” she said. “I wrote about wanting four kids, about wanting a teaching job, and other family and personal things. It was cool.”

Plunkett-Cromer has four children now, and had taught in the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District before retiring to take care of her children, but she remains a PTO president.

Stauffer then asked Plunkett-Cromer to help deliver the more than 70 letters, because it had become hard to track down students who no longer lived with their parents.

Dan Fogel said he doesn’t remember writing his letter in Stauffer’s environmental science class in 1994, but he was glad to see his letter when it got delivered.

“I said world hunger will be a worse problem and more people will be cold and sick and endangered species will be an issue, and there will be disease and war,” Fogel said. “But I also said I will be married with children and have a decent living and a nice job. That part came true.”

Stauffer said he remembers reading a letter from one female student who said she wanted to be an elementary school teacher in Unionville, wanted three children and wanted to name them Mark, Heather and John. She had four children, and never used the names she predicted, but ended up becoming a teacher at Chadds-Ford Elementary School.

Stuaffer said he quit the experiment after two years when he realized he could have a problem delivering so many letters years later. He said he enjoys retirement.

“One of the most rewarding things I have seen in retirement is to see (past students) doing great things with their lives, and what they have achieved,” Stauffer said. “Teachers influence lives.”

Many of the letters are delivered, though some are not.