The Amazing Story of a Gambler-Turned-Conservationist Who Spent $90 Million Saving Nature

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Former gambler and businessman M.C. Davis placed the biggest bet of his life about 20 years ago when he decided to spend a considerable chunk of his fortune on nature. Over the past two decades, he spent $90 million purchasing thousands of acres of land all over Florida. And the risk paid off – he managed to revive forests and swamps across the state, saving several wildlife species in the process. Although he tried to do his conservation work without attracting too much attention, the positive effects of Davis’ efforts could not go unnoticed forever. Last year, he was featured in Smithsonian Magazine and on the National Public Radio website, and his story went viral.

Having grown up in a cramped trailer on a dirt road in the Florida Panhandle, Davis set out to make a fortune at a very young age, becoming a self-proclaimed gambler and hustler. He made hundreds of millions of dollars, but it took a simple traffic jam to bring about the epiphanic moment that would change the course of his life forever. “It’s drizzling rain, and I was just sort of frantic with exasperation,” he told NPR. “Stuck in traffic, and I looked up, and I saw on the marquee of the high school, ‘Black Bear Presentation’. Intrigued, he decided to pull over and attend the event.

At the time, Davis didn’t even know that Florida had black bears, but the lecture made by two women of the Defenders of Wildlife piqued his interest – the very next day he donated enough money to keep the Defenders campaign alive for two years. He also began to read more books written by environmentalists, and kept in touch with Laurice MacDonald, one of the Defenders that had oipened his eyes. “He had the steepest learning curve,” MacDonald later said. “We would begin with little debates. They were a little testy but fascinating.”  

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Beirut’s Stinking River of Trash

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From afar it might look like a pathway of white pebbles snaking its way through the cosmopolitan capital of Lebanon, but it’s actually just a landfill overflowing with stinking garbage bags. Nicknamed ‘river of garbage’, this urban monstrosity stretches hundreds of meters through the Jdeideh municipality in the city’s suburbs.

The problem apparently began in July last year, when authorities closed down the main landfill site that collected the city’s garbage. Since they did not provide an alternate garbage dumping site, rising mounds of garbage started appearing on the streets of Beirut. In Jdeideh, a makeshift dumpyard was created four months ago near a few residential buildings, where people tossed all their garbage. It has grown in size since then, resulting in the unsightly ‘trash river’ that now stands testament to the city’s garbage crisis and the nation’s dysfunctional politics. “This used to be such a beautiful place, but look at it now. We can’t even walk by it,” one local told reporters, in February.

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Grieving Mother Dedicates Her Life to Planting Millions of Trees in Memory of Her Son

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Meet Yi Jiefeng, a Shanghai woman who has helped plant millions of saplings in Inner Mongolia, over the past 12 years. Her goal is to reforest the arid Alashan Desert while keeping alive the memory of her son who passed away 16 years ago.

In the year 2000, Yi’s only son, Yang Ruizhe, was killed in a road accident in Japan, and the tragic incident left her a shattered woman. But she eventually found a way to deal with the grief by devoting her own life to fulfilling her son’s dream. Ruizhe had told her about his plans to plant trees in northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous region in order to stop the advancing desert, so Yi decided to fulfill his dream herself. “He was fond of nature since he was a little boy,” she said. “He was concerned about natural things such as wind, rain, plants, and animals.”

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These Floating Trashcans Could be the Answer to Cleaning Polluted Oceans

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A couple of Australian surfers have come up with a creative solution to clean up polluted oceans – they’ve designed an automated trashcan that can suck up floating garbage, right from plastic bottles, to paper, oils, fuel, detergent and more.

Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski, who spent their childhood around the ocean, said they were frustrated with the increasing amount of rubbish they encountered in the water. So they quit their jobs to design a prototype bin in Perth, with the help of seed investors Shark Mitigation Systems. Once ‘Seabin’ was ready, they introduced it in Mallorca, Spain, the marina capital of Europe. They’re now trying to raise more money through crowd funding for commercial production. The idea’s been very well received – they’ve already raised over $70,000 and a Seabin promo video has attracted over 10 million views.

So how does it work? Seabin, a cylinder made from recycled materials, is fixed to a dock with a water pump running on shore power. It floats upright with the open end level with the water’s surface. The pump creates a flow of water into the bin, sucking in all the floating rubbish into a natural fibre bag and then pumping clean water back out. “It essentially works as a similar concept to a skimmer box from your pool filter,” explained Richard Talmage, a spokesperson for ‘Seabin’. “But it’s designed on a scale to work and essentially attract all that rubbish within a location within a marine harbour.”

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Filipino Entrepreneur Creates Revolutionary Lamp That Runs on Saltwater

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Meet Aisa Mijeno, a Filipino architect and scientist who invented a revolutionary lamp that runs on a glass of saltwater instead of batteries. Her vision in creating the SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting) lamp was to “light up the rest of the Philippines sustainably,” by finding an environment-friendly alternative light source suitable for people in coastal areas. She came up with the idea after spending time with the locals of the Butbut tribe in the Kalinga Province of Philippines, who had no access to electricity.  

The lamp can apparently run for eight hours on just two tablespoons of salt and a glass of water. “It is made of tediously experimented and improved chemical compounds, catalysts, and metal alloys that when submerged in electrolytes will generate electricity,” Mijeno explained. The idea behind it is the chemical conversion of energy, but while it works on the scientific principle of the galvanic cell, it makes use of a harmless, non-toxic saline solution instead of hazardous electrolytes. 

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Man Generates Almost No Garbage in Two and a Half Year Trash-Free Experiment

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Darshan Karwat, a post-doctorate at the University of Michigan, is making headlines for having maintained an incredibly frugal and sustainable lifestyle during his student years. The man gave up fast food, new clothes, and even toilet paper, until he got to a point where his trash for an entire year fit in just two plastic bags!

Karwat, who is originally from India, started the trash-free experiment when he lived in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and managed to keep it going for two and a half years. In the first year, he produced only 7.5 lbs of trash, and in the second year, he brought that number down to a meager 6 lbs, which is a mind-blowing 0.4 percent of the 1,500 lbs of yearly trash produced by the average American.

Looking back, Karwat says that his inspiration to start the project came from an episode of the radio show The Story, on which he heard of a British couple who lived trash-free. “I walked home from my laboratory at the University of Michigan and told my roommate Tim that I thought I could do better – I’d live trash- and recycling-free and that I’d start soon,” Karwat wrote in an essay for The Washington Post. “And just like that, I began an experiment in individual activism in the face of large environmental problems.”

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Self-Taught Artist Paints Beautiful Landscapes on Fallen Leaves

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16-year-old Joanna Wirazka has a very interesting choice of canvas. Instead of paper or fabric, the self-taught artist from Poland paints colorful artworks on fallen autumn leaves. Her works are not only stunning to look at, but also carry a strong environmental message.

Every autumn, Joanna puts aside her regular canvas for something that’s free, readily available, and in her opinion, juts as good – fallen tree leaves. She collects them from a park near her house and places them inside a book until they are completely dry. She then paints them black using water-based acrylic paint, before covering them with colorful landscapes inspired by bustling cities and natural sceneries alike.

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This Environment-Friendly Bathing Suit Cleans Polluted Water as You Swim

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Thanks to this cool new two-piece bathing suit, cleaning up the world’s oceans might actually become the ‘in’ thing to do during the hot summer months!

The 3D-printed Sponge Suit bikini is made of flexible, carbon-based filler materials that function like a sponge, absorbing all sorts of pollutants from water. So you put it on, wade into the water, and end up cleaning the seas “one stroke at a time”. It’s supposed to be absolutely safe for the wearer. 

The sponge filler was invented by a group of engineers led by electrical engineering professor Mihri Ozkan. But instead of just dumping it into water, they wanted to find a fun way of getting people involved in the cleaning process and add an eco-friendly element to the leisure activity of swimming. So they enlisted the help of design firm Eray Carbajo to convert the material into a functional, wearable swimsuit that’s economically sustainable and environmentally friendly. 

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India’s Lake of Toxic Foam Is So Polluted It Sometimes Catches Fire

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Despite its tropical climate, parts of Bangalore city in southern India have been experiencing what looks like snow. Except, it’s not actually snow, but a toxic foam from a severely polluted lake!

The 9,000-acre Bellandur lake is the largest one in the city, and also the most polluted. Decades’ worth of untreated chemical waste and sewage in the lake get churned into a white froth that’s as thick as shaving foam, every time it rains. This froth contains effluents like grease, oil, and detergents that sometimes catch fire, leading to one of the rarest sights in the world – a flaming lake.  

Many local residents are unnerved by the unnatural phenomenon. “Every time it rains and the water flows, the froth raises and navigating this stretch becomes risky,” said Visruth, who lives 30 meters away from the lake. “Due to the froth, visibility is reduced and the area also smells bad. Cars and bikes that pass this area get covered with froth.”

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Landscaping Company Carves Live Trees into Beautiful Artworks, Sparks Controversy

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A landscaping company in China recently angered nature lovers by carving dragons and other art forms on live camphor trees. Workers apparently cut off all the branches and stripped the top layer of bark before carving intricate figures into the soft wood underneath. The sculptures were then painted in gold.

About a dozen such trees are currently located on a roadside plot of land in Xiangshan county, in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province. The owner of the company, who prefered to remain anonymous, said it took 100 days to carve each tree. He also admitted that most of the trees couldn’t withstand the carving process and died soon after. As pretty as the carvings are, not many people are impressed with the cruelty involved.

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Dutch Students Turn Wasted Rotting Fruit into “Fruit Leather” Accessories

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A team of six undergrads in the Netherlands have come up with a brilliant use for wasted fruit – they’re converting it into leather!

The eco-friendly project – titled ‘Fruitleather Rotterdam’ involves transforming rotten fruit into a durable, malleable, leather-like material. It started off as a school assignment at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, in which design students were supposed to set up a flash retail event. After brainstorming, this particular team decided to tackle the problem of food wastage as well.

“The academy gives us a perfect view over Binnenrotte Square in Rotterdam, where they have a market each Tuesday and Saturday,” said Hugo de Boon, one of the students involved. “We saw how the square would be completely littered with food waste (at the end of the day), so we realised this was a problem we would want to solve from a designer’s point of view.”

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The Pages of This “Drinkable Book” Make Contaminated Water Drinkable

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‘The Drinkable Book’ is a new invention that could potentially save millions of lives around the world. Its pages are made of treated paper that can purify water when passed through, killing over 99% of bacteria.

The book is the result of postdoctoral researcher Theresa Dankovich’s hard work. For several years, she developed and tested the technology, working at McGill University in Canada and at the University of Virginia. The pages of the book contain nanoparticles of silver or copper, which are responsible for killing bacteria. The microscopic organisms absorb the silver or copper ions as they percolate through the page.

“Ions come off the surface of the nanoparticles, and those are absorbed by the microbes,” Dr. Dankovich said. “All you need to do is tear out a paper, put it in a simple filter holder and pour water into it from rivers, streams, wells, etc. and out comes clean water – and dead bacteria as well,” she explained.

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Dutch Eco-Hero Proves That One Man CAN Make a Difference

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Tired of witnessing copious amounts of trash strewn across the banks of River Schie in Rotterdam, Dutch artist Tommy Kleyn decided to step up and do something about it. He singlehandedly organised a cleanup of the entire bank, leaving absolutely no trace of trash whatsoever, proving that anyone can indeed made a difference if they want to.

Kleyn, 37, became aware of the issue during his morning commute to work – he would bike past a section of the Rotterdam riverway and see piles of trash along the bank. The situation troubled him, so he decided to spend 30 minutes every day cleaning the place up, filling one garbage bag a time. And when he posted photographs of his work on Facebook, a few of his friends decided to pitch in as well. In five weeks, they had a 100-meter stretch sparkling clean and completely trash-free.

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China’s Eco-Heroes: Blind Man and Friend with No Arms Plant 10,000 Trees in 10 Years

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Jia Haixa and Jia Wenqi are the most unlikely pair of environmentalists we’ve ever come across. The former is blind, while the latter is a double-amputee. Yet, they’ve managed to use their symbiotic relationship to plant over 10,000 trees in the past decade.

Haixa and Wenqi began their beautiful partnership when they were unable to get jobs due to their impairments. They have now become each other’s eyes and hands, and taken on the task of transforming a three-hectare stretch of riverbank in Yeli village, in north China’s Hebei Province.

“I am his hands,” said Haixia. “He is my eyes. We are good partners.” The 53-year-old was born with congenital cataracts that blinded his left eye. Then, in 2000, he lost sight in his right eye as well after a work-related accident. Wenqi, on the other hand, lost both arms in an accident when he was only three years old.

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This Woman Has Produced Only a Jar-Full of Trash in the Last Two Years

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Lauren Singer is a sustainability-conscious entrepreneur who has produced almost no waste in the past two years, proving that a trash-free lifestyle is indeed possible.

Lauren majored in environmental science at NYU, and it was during her student years that she began working towards a ‘Zero Waste’ goal. Today, the New Yorker does several things on a daily basis to reduce waste, including making her own toothpaste, deodorant and laundry detergent. She also founded her own eco-friendly company, ‘The Simply Co’, through which she plans to sell her homemade products.

Lauren regularly writes about her experiences of a Zero Waste life on her blog ‘Trash is for Tossers’. “There were two moments that brought me to a trash-free, waste-free lifestyle,” she revealed. “The first was my senior year of college when my professor Jeffrey Hollender emphasized the importance of living of living your values, and made me think about my own personal environmental impact.”

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