Woman in the Building
Tsai Ing-wen won an historic victory in January, becoming Taiwan’s first female president after losing during the last election cycle. Tsai’s promises of a more transparent, accountable and capable government appealed to voters who expressed dissatisfaction with economy and outgoing leader, Ma Ying-jeou. Fun Fact: She has two cats, Think Think and Ah Tsai.
The Oscars Get
The 88th Academy Awards got more buzz for the actors who didn't take home a golden statue, rather than those who did. A blatant lack of nominated actors of color at the Oscars - for the second year in a row - sparked a resurgence of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. Responding to criticisms, the governing board of the academy unanimously voted to double female and minority members by 2020, which is currently dominated by white (94%) males (77%), similar to the demographics of film studio heads.
A Grande Commitment to Reduce Food Waste
70 billion pounds of food are wasted in the U.S. each year, while millions of households remain food insecure. Starbucks is doing its part to combat food waste with a commitment to donate 100% of unsold food from its 7,600 stores, via its new FoodShare program. Partnering with Food Donation Connection and Feeding America, perishable food will be picked up from Starbucks stores each day in refrigerated vans and redistributed to food banks. Starbucks estimates the program will provide five million meals in the first year and nearly 50 million by 2021.
From the Underground Railroad to the Front of the $20 Bill
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced Harriet Tubman will appear on the front of the new $20 bill, relocating the slaveholding former president Andrew Jackson to its rear, as part of an historic overhaul of U.S. currency aimed at addressing America’s legacy of slavery and gender inequality. Tubman was born into slavery and escaped in her 20s, only to return to selflessly help others escape. Over a decade, she guided more than 300 slaves to freedom, risking her life and freedom over 19 trips.
Justice is Served in Landmark Case for Crimes Against Humanity
A special court in Senegal sentenced former Chadian military ruler Hissène Habré to life in prison after convicting him of crimes against humanity, torture and sexual slavery committed during his tenure from 1982 to 1990. The verdict ended a 16-year battle by campaigners and victims to bring Habré to justice in Senegal, where he fled after being toppled in a 1990 coup in the central African nation. It is the first time an African Union-backed court convicted a former ruler of a country within its jurisdiction.
Cracking the Rhino Poaching Problem
The slaughter of African rhinos has skyrocketed over the past 10 years, with 1,175 killed in South Africa in 2015 alone, compared to 13 in 2007. With support of a Google.org grant, WWF has created a new thermal infrared camera that can identify poachers from up to a mile away by their body heat, 24 hours a day. The stationary solar-powered system permanently keeps watch on nearly five miles of border road. When it detects a poacher, it alerts the head warden, who then deploys a quick response ranger unit to intercept the intruder. Since it was introduced in March, the system has transformed the way rangers track down and apprehend criminals, which has led to the arrest of dozens of poachers.
A Trip Around the World, Powered by the Sun
History was made as the Solar Impulse 2 - the first ever 100% solar powered aeroplane - successfully completed its 40,000+ kilometer journey around the world.
The aim of the adventure was to prove capabilities of renewable energy, rather than develop solar-powered planes for widespread use. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon applauded Captain Piccard and the Solar Impulse team, saying, “you may be ending your around the world flight today, but the journey to a more sustainable world is just beginning. The Solar Impulse team is helping to pilot us to that future."
Virtual Reality Makes Strides in Rehabilitation
A revolutionary new treatment has helped paralyzed patients regain muscle control with the help of virtual reality (VR). The study, conducted by the Walk Again Project in São Paulo, Brazil and Duke University, uses a system of brain-controlled robotics (walkers) and VR to simulate the forgotten sensation of walking. Through multiple layers of interactions, small numbers of surviving nerves reawakened, recreating a connection between the brain and certain muscles. All eight spinal cord injury subjects recovered partial sensation and muscle control after about a year of training. This is a major step forward and a promising look at VR’s implications in the medical community and beyond.
For the first time ever, the United Nations General Assembly held a summit to address the refugee crisis. World Vision, an international relief and development organization, saw this high profile event as an opportunity to influence global leaders to take action in bettering the lives of the millions of refugee children living in conflict and poverty. To accomplish this, Matter Unlimited helped World Vision to create a moving mural that traveled through the streets of major cities such as New York, London, Auckland, Dublin and Seoul. The hand-drawn mural contained the message, “We cannot ignore children forced to flee their homes,” and encourage people to put pressure on the summit and, “Tell @UN leaders #KidsDeserveBetter.” Within just 24 hours of the UNGA meeting, the hashtag received over 10,000,000 Twitter impressions with no media support.
It's a Bird... It's a Plane... It's Humanitarian Drones
In Rwanda, doctors can now request medical supplies via text message and have them delivered by drone. Zipline, the U.S. startup running the project, teamed up with the Rwandan government to help reinvent healthcare accessibility in areas that were previously considered unreachable. The drones guide themselves using GPS location data, and will initially deliver blood, plasma, and coagulants to hospitals across rural western Rwanda, helping to cut waiting times from hours to minutes.
Finland announced plans to phase out coal by 2030, the most concrete global commitment of its kind. The country has been reducing its coal use since 2011 and earlier this year invested €80 million into renewable power. Finland’s long-term goal is to become carbon neutral, and by 2050 rely entirely on renewable energy. Last year, renewable sources accounted for 40 per cent of all energy consumption in Finland and is estimated to reach 47 per cent by 2030 under the proposed measures - just shy of the government target of 50 per cent.
White Helmets in
a Dark Conflict
The Syria Civil Defense, also known as the White Helmets because of their protective white hard hats, is a volunteer civil defense non-governmental organization that operates in rebel-controlled Syria. The unarmed volunteer workers come from all walks of life, from engineers, painters, carpenters, bakers, tailors, students and more, and have saved over 73,530 lives - regardless of political affiliation - since the conflict began. Netflix released a documentary on this incredible organization last fall to highlight its efforts and encourage support.
At this time, the situation in Aleppo continues to worsen. We encourage you to consider making a donation The White Helmets directly today.
We all have the opportunity and choice to make things matter. We at Matter Unlimited wish you a meaningful and happy holiday. We're looking forward to creating an even more impactful 2017 with you.
Make 2017 Matter.
ROB AND THE MATTER FAMILY