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How’s your Mental Health Awareness Month going so far?

Time flies when you’re having fun!  Suddenly it’s almost the end of May. We all know that May is mental health awareness month, what have you done to take care of your mental health?

There can be many elements of daily stresses: traffic congestion, finances, workplace pressure, or other personal challenges. With everything added up, it can wear on our mental health little by little each day.  During rush hour, the traffic in the DMV area can be really horrible and especially if there is an accident on the roads, it can take up to twice the amount of the regular commute time. Even when taking the Metro, there could be many reasons that cause a train delay. The feeling of anxiety is stressful among commuters whom are late for a meeting or something urgent but are stuck in the delayed train. There’s a study that found that commuting also has significant psychological and social costs. It can be a major cause of stress, due to its unpredictability and a sense of loss of control. Commuters can experience boredom, social isolation, anger, and frustration from problems like traffic or delays.

Here are some tips I have that helped me to reduce stress during commute:

  1. Find some distraction.

i.e., listening to music or podcast might help you to get in your own zone and minimize the discomfort from the commute.  There’s nothing you can do while you are in traffic, using your phone checking email can be very distracted when driving. I found time flies when you are doing something that enjoyable. Also, I saw people on the train doing different things to kill time. Some of them reading newspaper or book, some of them watching a TV show.

  1. Try to leave earlier.

It could be challenging sometimes, but usually, you will feel less stressed if reserve more time for your commute. Therefore, you don’t risk running late to a meeting. However, traffic can be very unpredictable, fighting with the unpredictable nature of commuting wastes a lot of mental energy and focus. Acknowledge you are lacking the control in this situation and try to accept the reality.

  1. Teleworking

This will depend on the company’s and your schedule flexibility. Sometimes I need to get to several meeting in a day, each of them might in a different direction. In between those meetings, going back to the office would waste a lot of time especially when the office might in another direction. I would find a coffee shop near the next meeting location and work from there.

If you are interested in smart commute solutions, please see the blog by James Davenport – How’s the Commute. If you have some effective way to relieve the stress in commuting, welcome to share with us.

Above is just a part of our life. Overall, we need to build up strong mental health to be able to tackle any difficulties. May 2019 is coming to an end, but our way to being mentally strong will not end here. Create an opportunity to share your stressful moment with people you trust and listen to their stories, you might find you are not alone at the same time, you can encourage each other with some life hacks or positive thoughts.

Mei Fang, who is an urban planner with a strong passion for urban and landscape design, she also enjoys looking for the variety of culture inside of the city.

 

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Feeding a Thirsty World

About two weeks ago, I attended the Feeding a Thirsty World: Harnessing the Connections Between Food and Water Security event at the Wilson Center. Speakers from Winrock International, Water Global Practice of the World Bank, Environmental Change and Security Program at the Wilson Center, Sustainable Water Partnership, and Corteva Agriscience led discussions on the linkage and the overlap between water security and food security. I learned that the relationship between water and food security is a complex because you can’t have food security without water security. If we are only providing water solely for drinking purposes than we are only solving half of the problem. We are not developing self-reliance or empowering communities to take care of their water or agriculture systems.

More than 70 percent of global water use is for agriculture while more than 25 percent of the global population lives in areas facing severe water scarcity and more than 820 million people are food insecure. Water consumption for food production will need to increase by 70 percent before the year 2050 in order to meet the demand for a growing population. In addition, we have to consider the environmental stressors that also affect food and water availability, like the increase in floods and droughts due to changes in climate patterns. Many countries are lacking in safe access to drinking water. 3 out of 10 countries lack safe drinking water in their home globally. There are serious consequences such as political instability, economic decline, and increase in conflict and insecurity. So how can we feed a thirsty world?

There were three takeaways from the discussions: Nutrition Is More Important than Calorie Intake, The Development of Child’s Brain in Relation to Human Capital and From Relief and Recovery to Growth and Resilience. I go into greater detail on each topic below.

Nutrition Is More Important than Calorie Intake

Water scarcity has long term effects on food access which leads to poor nutrition and poor health. Total agriculture productivity needs will have to increase by 50% to meet the current demand for nutrition. We can produce enough food and calories but the water demand is very massive. The demand for water and food don’t always overlap with each other. We have the capacity to produce calories but nutrition is different than calories met. Nutrition requires a more complex diet. For a nutritional diet you need access to foods like nuts, animal sourced protein, fruits, and vegetables, but the production for these food sources tend to be more localized. Both water security and food security are contextual issues therefore a universal solution cannot be applied.

Water is important for nutrition but it hasn’t been a major topic in the food security development community. Neither has food security in relation to the water security development community. One of the reasons is that these development communities have been isolated from one another both financially and administratively, and as a result there can be a hesitancy to combine them perhaps out of the fear of less funding. Some of the greatest needs are in governance and management improvements where there can be a lack of policy coordination.

Possible Solutions

There are two basic trends linking water and nutrition security in policy development: building policy and funding linkage between food security and water security efforts are very important but still an evolving discussion about how they can relate in the future. Another is increasing the focus on supporting small-holder farmers specifically their ability to irrigate and to manage their water effectively. They are largely responsible for food security in many parts around the globe because they dominate the food production system. In some places in Africa, small-holder farmers produce up to 90 percent of the food. Irrigation is a strategy that can be used as a solution, but small-holder farmers need a different set of irrigation tools than larger scale systems.  Small scale irrigation farmers are a part of a broader development program. We should encourage the support and improvement of existing practices of small-scale irrigation farmers by focusing on their potentials rather than building centralized systems that are managed by national governments.

The Development of Child’s Brain in Relation to Human Capital.

Water security is an underlying driver of healthy child growth. Malnutrition can stunt the growth of a child’s brain. Stunting is a red flag for physical and cognitive challenges faced later in life. Early investments in children brain growth lay the groundwork for the development of human capital. The World Bank started the Human Capital project last October which includes a human capital index that measures the amount of human capital that a child born today can expect to attain by the age of 18 given the risks of poor health and education in the country where he or she lives. The distribution of human capital across the world is imbalanced and many countries are projected to have a lower index. If we fail to invest in solutions that unlock food security and nutritional gains today, these future generations may fall short of their potential.

Possible Solutions

The World Bank has developed a framework for demonstrating linkages between water security, food security, and nutrition which is an important determinant of human capital outcomes. There are four basic pathways: production, income, water supply, and women’s empowerment.

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The World Bank developed six nutrition sensitive enhancements to the types of irrigation investments that the World Bank supports as seen below. Two examples of countries, Uganda and Somalia, were mentioned where they have begun to incorporate these nutrition sensitive enhancements. Both countries face chronic food shortages and water insecurity.

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From Relief and Recovery to Growth and Resilience.

We need to move beyond relief and recovery to growth and resilience. Not only making sure that farmers have enough food for survival but moving towards a surplus to assist in livelihood.

Possible Solutions

There are ways to provide stability and opportunities to increase livelihood: empowering more young men and women to have a platform to create innovative solutions, increasing access to data and information and providing an understanding of the data, and pushing for more responsibilities at the community level enabling households, local leaders, and organizations to take charge. Improving water use by making it more sustainable and productive and improving disaster risk management are efficient objectives to these approaches.

I hope these summarized points will cause you to reflect on the current inefficiencies of our global food and water systems and the ways that can support us in to moving towards a more sustainable and equitable future. For more information visit https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/feeding-thirsty-world-harnessing-the-connections-between-food-and-water-security where you can have access to view the full footage of the event.

Jazmin Kimble is an Urban Planner and Urban Designer  from Long Island, NY. She has a passion for empowering and planning adequate, equitable communities through the lens of Geodesign, Urban Design, Community Development, Architectural Design, Sustainability, Environmental Solutions, and Community Engagement. Jazmin believes the culture and the history of a community is what makes it unique. This approach allows her to design with communities from a holistic viewpoint.

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Black History Month: Black In Business

View More: http://edwardunderwood.pass.us/nspiregreenMy mind races and my heart swells as I reflect with pride on the ability of black people to persevere and overcome in these United States. 400 years ago, in 1619, the first enslaved people from Africa were brought to the shores of the United States of America, landing in Jamestown, Virginia. From slavery to Jim Crow laws, which were abolished in the latter part of the 20th Century, to current institutionalized forms of discrimination we press forward.

Although this forward movement is evident in all facets of life such as education, entertainment, and politics there is still a considerable amount to grow, particularly in the business world. While rates of black entrepreneurship are astoundingly high in certain sectors, I do question how many businesses in the government contracting arena have experienced the ability to build wealth – especially firms that are still in the subcontracting space.

As a professional services firm that wants to grow our capabilities to prime more projects, we have often found ourselves as subcontractors beholden to nominal percentages and abnormally slow payment processes that threaten the solvency of our business. It often feels like programs designed to help such as the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) program and others pigeon hole us in a way that larger companies either don’t realize or are accustomed to. For example, if a project states that 30% should go to DBE firms that percentage is often split up over a number of companies making the revenue generation and ability to build the capacity of the business pretty low.

If I were alone in this feeling, I wouldn’t be writing this piece; however, I’ve talked to a number of minority companies who live this experience regularly. We are often told to not lead with our status as a minority business but on the flip side, we are often only called because we meet that requirement on a contract. I’ve had this stated explicitly. It’s disheartening that because there are programs designed to ensure some level of fairness and collaboration for underrepresented groups, there is often a perception of less value add and inability to perform.

Business ownership can create the opportunity to bring generations out of poverty, build communities, and create prosperity. Until minority businesses are seen for the value that they bring to the table, the diversity of thought, technical merit, and the quality of our work, I wonder if we will be able to truly flourish in a system that still marginalizes our contributions and takes advantage of our disadvantages.   While there are ways to overcome and outgrow some of this, it’s an unfortunate box we maneuver around – being black in business.


Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC a community, multimodal, and environmental planning firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.





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