Three great stories we found on the internet this week.
Norway’s Svalbard Global Seed Vault is the largest seed bank in the world. Since it opened in 2008, it has received over one million samples. But until five years ago it had never had a withdrawal. That changed with the war in Syria. In 2014, the staff of a seed bank outside of Aleppo were forced to flee. Before they did, they shipped their entire inventory to Svalbard. It was a heroic mobilization that saved many unique varieties of chickpeas, lentils and alfalfa that otherwise might have been lost.
But getting the seeds to safety was just the start. In 2015, the staff withdrew the seeds from the Norway vault and moved them to backup locations in Morocco and Lebanon. Then they started planting them. Over the past five years, they’ve grown more than 100,000 plants from them — and returned 81,000 seeds to Svalbard to replenish what they withdrew. They’ve also been sending the seeds to scientists around the world who are researching drought-resistant crops for which these particular varieties happen to show potential. Grist has the dramatic story of the race to save Syria’s seeds, and how the scientists who got them out — and then got them back — have been helping them multiply ever since.
The assassination of Rio de Janeiro councilmember Marielle Franco in 2018 has led to a change that would have made the feminist leader proud. Since her death, the number of women running for office in Rio is higher than ever — a shift due, in part, to a very different kind of political candidacy.
Yes! Magazine tells the story of how women in Brazil are forming “collective candidacies,” in which the person on the ballot vows to share decision-making responsibilities with a group of co-candidates. Brazilian law doesn’t officially allow collective candidacies, but they have existed informally since the 1990s. Typically, the “official” candidate simply tells the voting public who their co-candidates are, and that they will be leading together as a group.
The idea has been embraced by women especially, who are severely underrepresented in Brazilian politics — only 15 percent of Rio de Janeiro’s councilmembers are women, for instance. But this year, 41 percent of the country’s collective candidacies are being led by women, more than double the amount from all the years between 1994 and 2018. And many of these groups are made up of the full spectrum of Brazilians, from Black to Indigenous to LGBT, making sure that not just women, but all vulnerable groups, are represented. “The main backdrop for this movement is the idealism of doing politics differently and the rescue of representation and democracy,” said one co-candidate. “But there is also a hint of pragmatism as some people might look at it as just a strategy to gain more votes.”
Connecting with kids
Many students in Chattanooga, Tennessee have been attending classes remotely since the pandemic began. This has made home internet service an imperative for families with kids. For those that can’t afford it, the city’s electric utility has been providing free internet. Now, the public school system has announced it will make that free service permanent for low-income families. As of this moment, it is fully funded for the next ten years.
For Chattanooga, the rollout was relatively easy. That’s because Chattanooga has spent the last several years building out a citywide high-speed, low-cost fiber optic network. The service, which went online in 2014, was the first of its kind in a major U.S. city, and earned Chattanooga the nickname Gig City. Now it’s being used to make sure kids stuck at home don’t fall behind in their studies, no matter their income.