WattTime enables consumers to prioritize what kinds of power they will consume. - Photo by Lucas Oliver Oswald
WattTime Gives Clean Power to the People
By Lucas Oliver Oswald on September, 2016
It is no secret that slowing the catastrophic effects of climate change will require a transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. The bad news is that this transition can be prohibitively expensive and difficult to make. In 2015, University of California, Berkeley made major headway in converting its campus to clean energy. And they did it with unprecedented effortlessness.
Conversion of a large building to clean energy usually means significantly more expensive energy bills or investments in infrastructure, like a rooftop solar array. But by installing fist-sized pieces of hardware onto heating and ventilation systems in four large undergraduate housing buildings — some of them nine stories high and housing 230 students — Berkeley permanently diverted much of its biggest energy expenditures in these residential buildings to clean energy. No monthly fee and no new infrastructure. Soon, the same technology will be used in over 100 buildings on campus.
This seamless milestone toward clean energy was made possible by WattTime, a nonprofit with massive potential to change the way the country uses energy... Read more by clicking here.
Rocking The Oat
By Lucas Oliver Oswald on July, 2016
How oat milk became an alternative movement in Sweden. Available only in print from DRIFT magazine.
Volume 4: Stockholm.
This issue contains stories about Stockholm, its coffee, and the people who drink it. For our fourth issue, we hear from dozens of locals, shop owners, roasters, patrons, entrepreneurs, writers, and photographers about what it’s like to drink coffee in Stockholm. The Swedish capital’s residents drink coffee as if it’s water, and foster a fierce dedication to fika whether they’re at the office or snuggling near a fire in the dead of winter. Yet, specialty coffee is a harder-than-expect sell in the coffee-guzzling city: Swedes have always had high-quality coffee—for cheap—and expect it to stay that way.
Drift, Volume 4 guides us from India to New York, from an early 1900s ship on the harbor to trendy Södermalm, and from the 1700s to the future, as we take a magnifying glass to what makes Stockholm’s coffee scene tick.
Nikolas Rolon works on a practice test while in economics class. -Photo by Lucas Oliver Oswald
Defying the Odds on the Path to College
By Lucas Oliver Oswald on May, 2016
Nikolas Rolon, a senior at Roosevelt High School, had not known anyone who had gone to college, other than his teachers. His friends and neighbors in Boyle Heights, a predominantly Latino community near downtown Los Angeles, rarely discussed higher education. But from an early age, Rolon was determined to earn his college degree.
“It was all me,” Rolon says. “My dad went straight to work after high school, my mom dropped out of high school, my older brother and sister both dropped out. I’ve watched them all struggle so much in life, and at some point I realized I didn’t want that, that it could be different for me and that college was a way to do that.”
On March 15, 2016, Rolon had set his alarm for 3:30 in the morning, the time when the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), released its admission decisions for the Class of 2020. Rolon held his breath as he opened his acceptance letter on his computer screen, his three younger siblings with whom he shares a bedroom all asleep around him. At long last, he exhaled something he felt he had been holding in for all of high school.
In that moment, Rolon recalls, “I finally got to reap the rewards of three and half years of hard work. I finally let myself relax.” He plans to attend in the fall.... Read more by clicking here.
Photos provided by Hailey Tucker
Five Questions with One Acre Fund
By Lucas Oliver Oswald on April, 2016
Since 2006, One Acre Fund has been helping the farming families in East Africa—a notoriously impoverished and vulnerable demographic—improve their craft by supplying them with basic agricultural tools and practices. Now operating in Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, and Rwanda, the organization has achieved the ultimate goal of a non-profit: a proven, easily scalable, and highly effective model for improving quality of life.
Emerson Collective’s Lucas Oliver Oswald sat down with One Acre Fund Founder Andrew Youn to discuss the future of Africa’s agriculture, how One Acre Fund has reached 380,000 families in ten years, and how they plan to reach more than a million by 2020.
How did One Acre Fund begin and how has the model evolved over time?
One Acre Fund really began with two very special farmers that I met while traveling in western Kenya between my two years of business school.... Read more by clicking here.
Connecting Low-Income Patients to High-Quality Medicine
By Lucas Oliver Oswald on March, 2016
Two years ago, Tara Leeds stopped taking her medication. After 40 years of taking prescription drugs to treat her bipolar disorder, she grew tired of their side effects and convinced herself she no longer needed them. She was wrong.
Tara’s mental state quickly spiraled into disarray—she lost her job and was soon living in a motel. She knew she had to start taking medication again, but even with insurance the drugs were too expensive. Her family estranged and health issues compounding, it became clear that Tara would likely succumb to the fate of so many others: abandoned by society and left homeless in the streets by a mental disorder dragging her life into irreparable chaos.
Meanwhile, less than an hour’s drive from Tara’s motel, long-term care facility Lincoln Glen was spending over $1,000 a year to destroy leftover drugs—untouched, unused medication, including exactly what Tara desperately needed to treat her bipolar disorder.... Read more by clicking here.
When a Garage Becomes a Classroom
By Lucas Oliver Oswald on March, 2016
I was introduced to the team behind the Stanford Solar Car Project late one Tuesday night. Far from the bright glass facades of Stanford University’s inner campus, a lone garage stands in the dark. If you visit during certain odd hours, you’ll find groups of undergraduates, huddled and poring over laptop screens lit up with lines of code or crowding around electrical boards overflowing with wiring.
Stanford Solar Car Project is a team of about 40 undergraduates who design, build, and race a car in the biannual Bridgestone World Solar Challenge — a nearly 2,000-mile drive across the Australian Outback powered by nothing but the sun. For most of the students, the solar car project is at the heart of their college education, and the race is the culmination.
When I first heard about the team, the focus of the story seemed obvious to me: I expected to write an article that would relay students’ romanticized reports of the race across the Outback.... Read more by clicking here.
FoodCorps in Navajo Nation
By Lucas Oliver Oswald on December 9, 2015
The STAR School, a charter school on the border of the Navajo Nation Native American Reservation in Arizona, has a tradition. Each year they give their graduating class of eighth graders the freedom to pick the menu for their celebratory feast.
The typical eighth grader’s dream meal probably doesn’t prove to be overly nutritious. And in Navajo Nation in particular, diet-related illness is common. Junk food is prevalent, vegetables are a rarity, and childhood diabetes and obesity run rampant. The reservation is the size of West Virginia yet contains only ten grocery stores. Despite all this, for the first time the eighth graders at STAR School chose to serve kale.
“They had total choice,” says Mark Sorenson, co-founder of the school... Read more by clicking here.
New FEMA maps show more of East Palo Alto at risk of flooding
By Lucas Oliver Oswald on December 12, 2015
East Palo Alto resident Tim Gibson stands in front of his home in Gardens District. - photo by Lucas Oliver Oswald
When Parvin Bari bought her house near University Square Park in East Palo Alto 15 years ago, it was not in a floodplain.
So when she got a notice in the mail in late October saying her home was now at risk for flooding and must now purchase flood insurance, she was shocked. “That was the first time I heard about it,” she said.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has released Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps, adding approximately 550 more properties to the East Palo Alto floodplain and forcing property owners with mortgages insured by the federal government to buy flood insurance. In the maps, about one third of the neighborhood surrounding University Square Park is in the floodplain, including Bari’s home.
East Palo Alto is situated on low-lying land between the San Francisco Bay and the San Francisquito Creek and has a history of flooding. Roughly 49 percent of city land is in the regulatory flood zone. The 1997 El Niño caused extreme flooding, and in 2012, when a high tide coincided with heavy rains, the area flooded again... Read more by clicking here.
Can we level the playing field for coffee growers?
By Lucas Oliver Oswald on August 12, 2015
One day in 1994, Jorge Cuevas found himself in the rural highlands of Oaxaca Mexico, sweating on a wooden bench among rows of coffee farmers in 100-degree heat. They sat together in silent anticipation, looking down at their hands and feet, awaiting a verdict that would determine not only the quality of their lives for the coming months, but the welfare of their families and all who depended on them.
Cuevas was recruited by a cooperative of indigenous coffee farmers in southern Mexico to help them acquire a USDA Organic certification. They knew that the certification, while costly, could boost purchase prices for their beans and help them climb out of poverty. For most of the farmers, coffee was their lifeblood, yet they had essentially no input in the valuing of their crop.
Inside the building before them, which they had constructed to please and accommodate their visitors, three men from a distant and unimaginably different world sat in the air conditioning drinking cold beverages, and determining the fates of the farmers outside... Read more by clicking here.
For California farmers, relentless drought spells financial disaster
By Lucas Oliver Oswald on November 12, 2014
Joe Muzzi stands between rows of Brussels sprouts, his legs hidden from the waist down in the lush growth, and scans the 350 acres of his farm that extend down the Pescadero coastline. He lifts the heavy leaves of one of his plants and reveals the bulbous, green bundles that will be hand picked and shipped off to grocery stores around the country in the coming weeks. They will be sold for around $2 a pound nationwide, a small fraction of which he will receive after the costly storage and shipping process.
Next season, he worries, will likely be a much grimmer story. Brussels sprouts might cost as much as $6 a pound at your local grocer, he says, and that might seem like good news for local producers like Muzzi. But if prices spike that high it will be costly imports in the stores, not California-grown Brussels sprouts. Instead, Muzzi will probably be out of business, and these now bountiful fields will hold only dry soil.
“It all depends on what happens next year,” he said in reference to the ongoing drought. For the past three years, California has experienced record lows of rainfall. Across the state, rivers and creeks have run dry and lakes bear broad, white borders of dust where water levels once reached...Read more by clicking here.
Strange things are afoot in the Arctic Circle
By Lucas Oliver Oswald on July 10, 2012
A fundamental aspect of the Anthropocene is that there’s nowhere on Earth that is left unexplored; humans have now touched and altered every part of the planet. But the Arctic and the Antarctic remain some of the least understood parts of the world.
Kevin Arrigo, an oceanographer and professor at Stanford University, is one of the few people actively investigating the state of the polar regions. Much of his work relies on measurements from satellites, but occasionally he still ventures to the poles to “ground truth” his data. And what he finds there can come as a complete surprise.
Recently, during a NASA-funded trip to the Arctic to study nutrient cycling, Arrigo was part of a team that uncovered a hitherto unknown occurrence of undersea life — three feet below young Arctic sea ice. “Under that ice was productivity as high as you’d find anywhere in the world,” said Arrigo... Read more by clicking here.