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Meet Daniela Núñez, The 23 Year Old Mexican Who Wants To Change The Way We Bury People

“What would happen if there were no graveyards and, instead of graveyards, we built paradises?”

That’s the question 23 year-old Mexican college student, Daniela Núñez, asked herself.

This question would become the foundation of her biodegradable urns project and company: BioEternal.

“BioEternal literally started in one of my courses,” Núñez said in an interview with RISE NEWS. “After researching, she found several companies in Spain, Colombia and Argentina that work with biodegradable urns. That’s when she decided she could make a change by bringing the seldom used concept to Mexico.”

After validating the market in Mexico, Daniela noticed that people like BioEternal, not only because of the practice, but also because of the entire experience the product offers.

With the help of partners and guided by professors from her university, she started creating the foundations for her business.

A critical moment for Núñez and BioEternal happened during her fourth semester of college, where she signed up for an I semester.

The I semester is a unique business incubation offered by the Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores Monterrey (ITESM).

“While I was there, BioEternal started moving forward really fast,” Núñez said. “I also faced my biggest challenges. People liked my idea but they kept asking me how I would work with Mexican culture.”

Núñez spoke about the Mexican culture as one of her biggest challenges.

“Mexicans have deep roots in their culture, especially when it comes to death,”
Núñez said. “It’s rare to see practices that differ from what we are used to, or from the typical funerary companies. That part was very complicated and we didn’t know if it would work here in Mexico.”

Daniela Núñez, the founder of BioEternal.

Another challenge Núñez faced while working on Bioeternal was the Catholic Church’s strong presence in Mexico.

“Ad Resurgendum Cum Christo,” a document released in August 2016 signed by Pope Francis states that the ashes of deceased people may not be kept in unholy or unblessed land.

“But after validating the market in Mexico, I realized that people no longer have a strong commitment with the Church,” Núñez said regarding the challenge.

Besides BioEternal, there are five companies that sell biodegradable urns too in her market.

Núñez spoke about Limbo as one of her strongest competitors in Mexico.

“A company that’s already selling and has very good sales is Limbo,” Núñez said. “Their product is something like a sand ball, but their concept and idea is about reintegrating with nature.”

Another company named Colibrí not only work with humans, but also work with animals.

“My plans are to start with humans and then make an approach to the animal market,” Núñez said. “If I started with the animal market, people are going to relate or interpret this practice as something exclusive for animals and that’s not a good idea.”

For Núñez, working with BioEternal has been more than just a way to help the environment.

“It’s very pretty to think about becoming a tree, but that idea is not enough, especially when you’re going through such a complicated stage in your life,” she said.

That’s the reason why Núñez decided to link together her company with the concept of green thanatology.

Without exploring the meaning of life and death, thanatology studies death.

Green thanatology, which is related to liberation, focuses on helping people go through someone’s death with the help of nature.

Companies like Limbo and Colibrí only focus on helping the environment, and this provided Daniela with an area of opportunity.

BioEternal’s focus on healing and its link with thanatology are its main strength and something that puts it beyond its competitors.

Death is not an easy subject to handle.

This is the reason why Daniela not only wants to change processes, but also wants to change experiences.

“It’s no longer an experience of burying a person, but of planting a life,” Núñez said. “Let’s make it beautiful. I want people to be able to keep these memories. That’s one reason why Bioeternal is named that way, because it’s an eternal memory.”

Setting up her company has not been easy and, currently, Núñez’s bigger challenge is money.

Producing a large number of biodegradable urns and signing up for this year’s national funerary convention are big and necessary expenses for her.

“I’m out of resources and I’m going to need help from crowdfunding,” Núñez said.

Núñez said that her long term goals are about making her own funerary company and a Bioeternal park.

“I don’t want families to go to a graveyard. I want this to be a friendly concept in which people visit a forest and visit their own tree because that’s much more attractive and pretty,” Núñez said.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Bakari Sellers: From Political Wunderkind To CNN Star

By Courtney Anderson

When South Carolina native Bakari Sellers was elected to the state’s General Assembly in 2006, he made history.

He was the one of the youngest people and the youngest black person to ever be elected to the position.

Sellers was 22, only a year or so out of Morehouse College.

Sellers was in elected office from 2006-2014.

And during those years, Sellers worked with the Obama campaign in 2008 and earned a law degree from the University of South Carolina.

Impressive, huh?

It is a career path many politicians would hope to reach by the time they hit their 40s and 50s, and it is one that got Sellers a spot in TIME’s “40 under 40” a few years back.

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Now Sellers is no longer in the South Carolina General Assembly. In 2014, he ran for the Lieutenant Governor office, a race he alluded to in that same TIME article.

“I do love our lieutenant governor’s office. That would be a good window to look out of,” Sellers said in 2010. “And the governor has a nice house. But we’ll see.”

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Then State Rep. Bakari Sellers speaking in 2010. Photo Credit: Bakari Sellers/ Facebook.

Sellers lost the race for lieutenant governor, a rare setback for one of the leading progressive voices in South Carolina.

Sellers again demonstrates how he’s different than many politicians: a loss like this would throw a wrench in most political plans.

But not for Sellers.

“I lost up, actually,” Sellers said in an interview with RISE NEWS.

Sellers still doesn’t have a particularly strict five-year or 10-year career path. He is all about using his career and positions to stand up for people he feels aren’t being heard.

“I think I have options,” Sellers said. “Right now, I’ve been able to give a voice to the voiceless.”

Standing up for the voiceless is in Sellers’s blood. His father, Cleveland Sellers, was a civil rights activist who is still dedicated to social justice. He is the younger Sellers’s inspiration.

“My father would say ‘History isn’t changed unless you push it,’” Sellers said. “And I rely on those life lessons every day.”

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Photo Credit: Bakari Sellers/ Facebook.

Family, Sellers said, is the one thing that has managed to stay consistent throughout his changing career.

His wife, Ellen Rucker Sellers, and their 11-year-old daughter, Kai Michelle, are always by his side.

Sellers and Rucker got married in the summer of 2015.

“They’ve always given me the courage to keep going,” Sellers said.

And Sellers has to keep going. He doesn’t have any time to waste.

He is an attorney at Strom Law Firm, and a member of the Democratic National Convention rules committee.

He recently argued for equal protection for unmarried same-sex couples under South Carolina’s criminal domestic violence laws. Sellers is also urging people to pay attention to criminal justice reform and issues of wealth distribution of black families in America.

When he is not dealing with all of the responsibilities of being an attorney, he is trying to keep up with the rapid twists and turns of the 2016 election.

“I have to keep up with the 24/7 news cycle because I’m a part of it now,” Sellers said.

Sellers is a commentator on CNN, which he is said is one of his most fun jobs. It has also put him in the national spotlight, next to luminaries like David Axelrod and Donna Brazile.

“That’s my family,” Sellers said. “That’s my daily.”

CNN isn’t the only place Sellers has visited. He has also appeared on the Steve Harvey Show and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.

Photo Credit: Bakari Sellers/ Twitter

Photo Credit: Bakari Sellers/ Twitter

He has even given an interview on The Breakfast Club national radio program, paying his good friend Charlamagne Tha God a visit. Not exactly the most common place to find a CNN contributor.

“We’re both trying to change the world in different veins,” Sellers said of Charlamagne. “We’re hoping to inspire someone to dream big, with their eyes open.”

So far so good for the 31 year old Sellers on that front.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Can This Young South African Change The Way The World Looks At Farming?

By: Lungani Gumede

UMLAZI TOWNSHIP, SOUTH AFRICA: Growing up in a rural village has many advantages and some of society’s favorite stories involve a dusty footed hero making it big in the city.

One of the biggest advantages of living in a rural setting is being thrust into the natural environment early on in ones life.

The surrounding forests, fields and rivers are a playground for children and, like other children, Dumisani Msweli quickly became infatuated with this environment.

He used to live with his grandmother in rural Umbumbulu, thirty minutes away from where Kwa-Zulu Natal’s coast meets the Indian Ocean.

However, Dumisani moved to be with his mother and stepfather in Umlazi township, the third largest township in South Africa, just outside of Durban.

Umlazi was one of them.

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A view of Umlazi. Photo Credit: Lungani Gumede

With a population of close to 405,000 in an area that is 47.46km squared (8,500 people per square kilometre) the township is compacted and land that is supposed to fit one family, has had to accommodate four or five houses on one plot.

So any arable land would have been converted into space for dwellings.

However, Dumisani always felt love for plants and trees and never forgot his passion.

After high school, Dumisani went to University and graduated with a degree in Nutrition, but that was not his passion.

“One of my mentors advised me to follow my passion,” Dumisani said in an interview with RISE NEWS

Which is what he did by going back to school. He received a National Diploma in Horticulture from the Durban University of Technology.

Dumisani then says he “saw a need and an opportunity in the township,” a need for work, cheap products and a cleaner environment.

This is how Ibala Organics was born.

Ibala means “backyard” or “garden” in isiZulu and Dumisani quickly realized that other amabala or “openspace” that belonged to the people in the community were the key to creating a sustainable, consistently fruitful business for the township of Umlazi.

Dumisani’s idea was to rent and buy land from inside the community, such as gardens, backyards and schoolyards and plant tropical and subtropical fruits and then sell those fruits to supermarkets and fruit processors.

By shortening and localizing his supply chain, Dumisani says there will be no need for expensive refrigeration or transportation.

The initiative will sell its fruits (pun intended) to fruit processors and supermarkets, which means that the gardens will need to provide its wares regularly and on time and the more “amabala” they have, the better.

Ibala already has a square kilometre of household backyard space that it has acquired and processed and a further 1.5 kilometre squared space from schoolyards that are being cultivated for the planting of vegetables in April.

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Space is at a premium in Umlazi. Photo Credit: Lungani Gumede

However, Dumisani says he is always on the lookout and constantly negotiating for more spaces.

Ibala Organics aims to provide communities with a very valuable second income, without actually having to toil the land.

Dumisani hires people from the community to work with him and is adamant that he wants to give opportunities to people who just left school with the right qualifications, over eight million people are unemployed in South Africa and university-leaving degree-bearing young people are not being hired.

Besides the good that Ibala Organics will do for the economies of the communities it operates in, Dumisani says “it is our vision to plant the value of tree’s in people’s lives.”

Dumisani wants to ensure that the people who will be participating in Ibala Organics gain a love for the plants and trees that he will be planting.

Getting buy-in from the community was not a problem for Dumisani, because he started close to home – on his own street.

Once he had proven his model to those close to home, it was easier to get support from neighboring communities.

The drought that has hit South Africa has not severely impacted on Ibala’s crop of tropical and subtropical fruit, such as Mangoes,paw paw, avocado, banana, granadilla, citrus fruit and litchi and in April they hope to add vegetables to the offering.

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Dumisani Msweli. Photo Credit: Lungani Gumede

Ibala Organics will soon be completely operational and the gardens of Umlazi will be home to trees and plants with heavy-hanging branches bearing fruit and vegetables.

Perhaps Ibala Organics and Dumisani will create a wave across the 400,000 people strong township that encourages local products and unity in the community.

A hand-in-hand initiative for the people, by the people.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us!

Know of a story that needs to be told? Send us an email to editor@risenews.net

Cover Photo Credit: Red Bull/ Screengrab

How This Photographer Fights For The Environment With His Camera

Ever since he was a child, South Florida-based photographer Ben Hicks has been fascinated with the inner workings of nature. Growing up exploring the woods near his childhood home, the young Hicks learned to love being outside and observing the natural world around him.

Nowadays Hicks’ profession leads him all around the globe, channeling his passion for the environment into a career that’s spanned several continents. He’s well known for his work with waves and wildlife in particular, and readily admits over a phone interview that he has a deep affinity for aquatic landscapes.

“In general I really do enjoy going out in the water with my camera,” Hicks said. “I’ve gotten my start shooting professional surfers. I’ve traveled quite a bit around the world covering professional surfers mainly based in Florida and that’s really where I started to love shooting in the water.”

Hicks’ photography is very popular throughout South Florida, and many of his pictures feature the sunshine state’s signature wildlife as their subjects.

He acts as a brand ambassador for several different companies and his work is so well liked that numerous prints of it are often sold as phone cases and other merchandise online.

More important, however, is how Hicks utilizes his success to advocate and raise awareness for conservation causes that he’s passionate about. Sea turtles in particular are of an interest to him, with Hicks’ work often featuring them. Some of the species that he photographs throughout Florida are known for being especially vulnerable to human activity.

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“As far as my conservation work. It was really just natural because I was out there seeing the [trials] that they were having to face as far as environmental efforts being done to try to help sea turtles,” Hicks said. “And there’s just so many things that are really going against sea turtles as far as beach nourishment programs, pollution, and the lighting from condos and houses that trick the orientation of the hatchlings.”

Hicks first became interested in sea turtle conservation back in 2009. He describes accompanying a marine scientist friend on a daytrip to research the reptiles, claiming that this was the catalyst which helped set in motion his advocacy work for their preservation in the first place.

“I was amazed that I could use my photos to educate people and help save sea turtles and [aid] their ability to reproduce in our area. That fascinated me, and I was amazed that people could really listen just by looking at one of my photographs,” Hicks said.

The future of Florida’s sea turtles, much like the future of many of the state’s endangered species, is inherently dependent upon factors like public perception and education.

Hicks’ passion for sea turtle conservation is made evident through his extensive photography work as well as his collaborations with various environmental organizations.

Many of his most popular pictures even feature some of Florida’s more endangered species, most notably loggerheads and leatherbacks. He hopes that documenting the life and habitats of these animals will further raise awareness to the public about their struggle and spur people to aid in their preservation.

Over the last few decades Florida’s sea turtles have faced a myriad of environmental problems. Most of these issues can be attributed to humanity’s growing ecological footprint and the turtles’ ingestion of plastic bags, something Hicks himself is concerned with.

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“One of the main things with sea turtles is plastic bags, because plastic bags look like jellyfish. So [the turtles] eat the plastic bags and it goes in their stomach, and pretty much it’s a done deal once they eat one,” Hicks said. “So eliminating plastic bags is something that the U.S. is now really starting to grasp, not just for sea turtles but for many reasons.”

The future of Florida’s sea turtles, much like the future of many of the state’s endangered species, is inherently dependent upon factors like public perception and education.

Teaching people the ecological importance of these creatures and securing legislation to ensure their protection has been a difficult struggle for many activists, and even nowadays incidents still occur of turtles being harassed or threatened by locals.

When asked about any possible future projects, Hicks cited a children’s book he was planning on publishing in the next year or so, one that tells the story of sea turtle hatchlings entirely through photography. He also spoke of two upcoming exhibitions, one of them located in New York City and another in South Florida. Similar to Hicks’ other work, these endeavors will aim to emphasize the importance of wildlife conservation and environmental awareness.

“Nobody’s ever really told the story of hatchling sea turtles and how researchers are really making a strong effort to conserve their populations in the U.S. and the world with real photographs in a children’s book before,” Hicks said.

Photo Credits: Ben Hicks/ Facebook.

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