September 28th, 2012
09:27 AM ET

The trash queen of Guatemala

Editor's NoteJoyce Maynard is the author of best selling novels "Labor Day" and "To Die For," as well as the explosive 1998 memoir "At Home in the World." She maintains a home in San Marcos la Laguna, Guatemala.

Susana Heisse is an environmental activist who uses the “eco-brick” to promote recycling and proper nutrition in Guatemalan schools. She will be profiled on CNN's The Next List Sunday, September 30th, at 2 p.m. ET.

By Joyce Maynard, Special to CNN

I first met Susanne Heisse in the fall of 2001, when I traveled to Guatemala with the plan of spending a few months in the astonishingly beautiful little Mayan village of San Marcos la Laguna, on the shores of the clear blue waters of Lake Atitlan.

It would have been hard to miss Susanne: at six feet tall, she towered over every indigenous person in the village, and most of the gringos, striding down the narrow stone paths of the village in her flowing skirts, with her flowing hair, and her big, commanding voice. She'd talk — in somewhat unconventional English, or her native German, or Spanish — about a subject few of the rest of us (at our yoga classes, and drumming circles, or taking our daily swims) chose to think about: The unromantic topic of trash. FULL POST

Filed under: Environment • Innovation • Social change • The Next List • Thinkers • TV
September 25th, 2012
10:49 AM ET

Turning trash into building material

By The Next List staff, CNN

(CNN) - Susanne Heisse is founder of Pura Vida, a movement for alternative trash management in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Her innovation: the eco-brick.

In its simplest form, the eco-brick is a plastic bottle stuffed with inorganic trash. Stuffed to capacity, these bottles are of sufficient integrity to be used as building blocks for homes and schools throughout Central America.

With the help of the Peace Corps and charities like Hug It Forward, this deceptively simple building innovation is now spreading throughout the world. FULL POST

September 22nd, 2012
01:07 PM ET

Opinion: Brain science key in trial of alleged 'Batman' shooter

Editor's Note: Dr. David Eagleman directs the Eagleman Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He is the subject of Sunday's episode of "The Next List," on CNN at 2 p.m. ET.

By David Eagleman, Special to CNN

(CNN) - In the wake of the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting, many people are asking the same questions: What kind of derangement is revealed by the alleged acts of James Holmes, who has been charged with murder and attempted murder in a massacre during a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises"? What is wrong with the brain that concocted this plot? How will information about Holmes' mental state play out in the courts?

My goal here is to bring a perspective on this tragedy from the point of view of a neuroscientist.

Few facts are publicly available about Holmes’ mental health background. Despite the dearth of data, however, several issues can be clarified and discussed.

To begin, it’s critical to understand the difference between two words: psychotic and psychopathic. These are two similar-sounding terms that commentators sometimes use interchangeably.

But, in reality, they are entirely different.

A person with a psychosis is disconnected from reality. For example, a homeless person arguing with himself is typically suffering from a psychosis such as schizophrenia. Someone with this sort of mental illness is termed “psychotic.” A person with a disorder of mood such as bipolar disorder (in which one alternates between depression and mania) can also have associated psychotic features such as hallucinations and delusions.

In contrast, a person with psychopathy has low empathy and low remorse. The psychopath can be smart, glib, charming and blend in perfectly with the society around him, but he lacks compassion and guilt. Behind his “mask of sanity” lurks a manipulative creature who can hurt others without compunction. A psychopath (or, synonymously, a sociopath) is someone like Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. They are termed “psychopathic”.

Which, if either of these, was Holmes? If convicted of the crimes, did he suffer from a psychosis, or was he instead a cognitively intact but emotionless sociopath? When Colorado Rep. Ed Perlmutter told the media that Holmes was “a psychotic son of a bitch," it’s safe to guess that his statement stemmed from a confounding of the terms rather than a specific diagnosis.


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Filed under: Books • Future • The Next List • Thinkers • Video
September 18th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Neuroscientist: Progress follows 'lots and lots of ideas'

By The Next List staff, CNN

(CNN) – Whether he’s peering into the mind of a mass murderer or spinning tales of the afterlife, bestselling author and neuroscientist David Eagleman is wrestling with some of the most profound questions of our existence. What is time? What is consciousness? How does the human brain construct reality?

“I’m very interested in the perceptual machinery by which we view the world,” Eagleman says, “and how we make decisions, our beliefs, our actions in the world.”

As head of the Laboratory for Perception and Action at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Eagleman and his students are pursuing some 50 different projects on the human brain. They study topics from time perception and brain plasticity to synesthesia, a condition characterized by a blending of senses. For research assistant and synesthete Hannah Bosley, synesthesia means that she associates letters and numbers with different colors.

“For example,” she says, “the word dog is D-O-G. It’s also yellow, clear and green to me.” FULL POST

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Filed under: Art • Culture • Innovation • Language • Science • The Next List
September 17th, 2012
01:51 PM ET

Carbon negative in Costa Rica

By The Next List staff, CNN

(CNN) - In 1974, 23-year-old Juan Sostheim was tapped as director of Burger King in Europe. He opened the company’s first franchises on the continent and introduce millions to a phenomenon known as the “Whopper.”

Today, the former fast food king has traded in his crown for a new title: owner of Costa Rica’s first carbon-negative company, a sustainable farm and eco-resort known as Rancho Margot.

“What I’m doing today is basically the sum of my experiences,” say Sostheim. “I understand it’s a little bit crazy, but I think it should give people some hope that we all can change.” FULL POST

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Filed under: Culture • Environment • Innovation • Social change • The Next List • Thinkers • World
September 14th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Opinion: Common sense choices can fight climate change

Editor's note: Juan Sostheim is owner and founder of Rancho Margot, an eco-resort, educational facility and sustainable farm in Costa Rica. Sostheim is the subject of Sunday's episode of "The Next List," on CNN at 2 p.m. ET.

By Juan Sostheim, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Almost 40 years have gone by since I graduated from the University of Florida and started my professional career. I remember being relieved that the Vietnam War was nearly over and the threat of someone pushing "the button" and starting a nuclear war was becoming an unlikely scenario.

As terrible as these issues were, we always felt that we could somehow it behind us.

Today, we face a very different problem and it’s one which most people feel powerless to do something about on an individual level. I’m referring to climate change.

There have always been and will always be naysayers, but no one can stay on the sidelines and hope someone else will do the right thing. We all must become eco-literate. We all must participate.

In the scientific community, there is no doubt about where we are heading and what is causing it. There is some legitimate debate about how long the devastation due to climate change will take, how much damage we can expect or where, but the situation as a whole is clear; global warming is real and if we don’t change, life will forever be different. I’m an optimist and I know we can change. We must adapt and mitigate but most important of all we must let everyone know where we stand or it will continue to be business as usual.

When I built Rancho Margot, an eco-resort in Costa Rica, I had to make choices. I wanted to have the smallest possible environmental impact - but at the same time I needed to get tourists to come and support what we were doing. How was I going to sell my vision to people who don't believe in climate change? My mission became to get people to realize that small changes in lifestyle can have a big impact. There is no need to sacrifice.

So what is it that we as individuals can do? First and foremost, we must demand that the true cost of all products and services be visible for all to see. This is only possible if we demand that carbon footprints be measured under strict international norms. At Rancho Margot, we chose the PAS 2060 norms from the British Institute of Standards. We emit 115 tons of carbon dioxide per year and, through our mitigation efforts, sequester 1,375 tons. That means we had a minus-1,260-ton carbon footprint in 2011. As consumers, we need to demand this information.

Forget, for the moment, the global picture. This is about us. I want to know how much carbon we emit. I need to know. If this is not consumer protection, I don’t know what is. In the UK, all public companies are now required to report and certify their carbon footprint. It’s a start. It is a slow process and we have little time. In the absence of this consumer protection we need to make common sense choices. We can buy locally produced fruits and vegetables. We can buy quality that lasts and things that can be locally repaired. We need to stop supporting our own destruction. There is a whole sustainable future out there and it’s up to us.

The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of Juan Sostheim.

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Filed under: Culture • Environment • Innovation • The Next List • Thinkers • Video
September 11th, 2012
07:00 AM ET

Former fast-food exec goes green

By The Next List staff, CNN

(CNN) - Juan Sostheim is a pioneer in scalable, sustainable living. As founder of Rancho Margot, a luxury eco-tourist resort, educational facility and organic farm in Costa Rica, he’s demonstrating that “living off the grid” is not only possible but practical for large-scale communities.

Working with a staff of about 45 people and some 10 to 15 rotating volunteers, Sostheim produces all the food for the resort on the premises. He heats the water - including that for the massive hot tub with swim up tiki bar - by composting; he fuels their kitchen with methane gas from cows and pigs; he generates his own electricity; and he creates bio-fuels.


Rancho Margot began nine years ago when Sostheim, a former Burger King executive turned industrial chemical magnate, bought a cow pasture in what once was a Costa Rican rain forest. Concerned about environmental issues and food security in developing nations, his goal was to create a profitable resort dedicated to sustainability. Now he hopes to see Rancho Margot transition into a thriving, teaching community - one that still caters to tourists, but does not depend on them in full. To this end, he is planning a residential community where about 100 families can live and work on the ranch. By collaborating with the local population, Sostheim hopes to create a prosperous and fully integrated community able to sustain itself for generations.

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September 10th, 2012
12:55 PM ET

How to raise a ‘cleaner, fresher tasting fish’

By The Next List staff, CNN

(CNN) - Brian O’Hanlon learned long ago that the world’s supply of wild-caught seafood could never keep up with ever-increasing demand. He set his sights on solving the problem and today, O’Hanlon is the Founder and President of Open Blue, the world’s largest open-ocean fish farm.

O’Hanlon is raising fish far out at sea where the clean water and brisk currents are the natural place for fish to thrive. The fish are raised from eggs and everything they eat is controlled. That means they are free of contaminants like PCBs and mercury. To O’Hanlon, the mission is clear: “Our whole goal is to provide a more natural, healthier environment for the fish.”

O’Hanlon hopes his approach will be a model for the future of fish farming. His insight and innovative ideas are capturing the industry’s attention and providing a critical resource to a hungry world. Check out the video at the top of this post to learn more about his work.

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Filed under: Food • The Next List • Video
September 9th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

Chef: We are entering a 'new era of cooking and dining'

Editor's note: Louis DiBiccari calls himself the "mastermind of underground dinner parties." On his website, foodies vote for dinner themes and ingredients, then DiBiccari and team rush to plan a four-course meal in the span of a day.

By Louis DiBiccari, Special to CNN

What does it mean to be a chef? We can get restaurant jobs. We can work in any city we want. We have the talent to cook anywhere. But there’s more to it than that. We learned our trade in the confines of a tough business that weeds out the weak and embraces those who are truly dedicated to the industry. We don’t just cook. We need to create new and interesting experiences for the people who love our food. We need to push the envelope. We are pioneers exploring the Wild West of the culinary landscape. We are artists, and our canvas is a round, white plate, 10 inches in diameter. Because of this, dining experiences are evolving way beyond brick-and-mortar restaurants. Our attitude is simple. Cook your ass off ... that’s it. Wherever, whenever and for whomever.

We believe in food trucks. We believe in secret underground supper clubs. We believe in serving restaurant food in non-traditional places. We put on a show as we cook. We are inspired by ingredients, the harvest, and seasons. We are dedicated to those who work side by side with us and embrace our vision. We believe contributing to the culture of our cities. We believe in community, helping each other out, and building each other up. We cook with our souls regardless of where we are cooking because we cook to live and live to cook. Most of all, we are hungry to feed you.

As with any artistic endeavor, we need people to take in what we’ve created. Our guests are hungry for more than a white-linen, three-course dinner. They want to explore the culinary boundaries with us. They seek us out and spread the word - not on OpenTable or Zagat, but through word of mouth and social media. We are grateful for these people who crave creative culinary experiences, because without them we would have no way to express our need to cook outside of the box.

Nothing satisfies us more than to create opportunities for you, our guest, to escape and be entertained. Bring your friends. Bring your family. This is why we do what we do. We are excited to meet you in our restaurants, and now, in our food trucks, at our secret underground supper clubs and at Chef Louie Night. Like true artists, our need to create something new and exciting can’t be contained. Our passion for pushing the culinary envelope is as insatiable as our guests’ appetites. This is only the beginning of a brand new era of cooking and dining.

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Filed under: Food • The Next List • Video
September 7th, 2012
07:47 AM ET

To feed a growing population, 'bet on the ocean' and innovation

Editor's note: Brian O'Hanlon is a pioneer in aquaculture. He is raising fish in the swift waters of the open ocean, eight miles off the coast in Panama. CNN's "The Next List" will feature the founder of Open Blue on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

By Brian O'Hanlon, CNN

I once read an article in The Guardian that said this: Over the next 50 years humans will need to produce more food than all the food ever produced over the past 10,000 years combined. There is no disputing that our global food supply is stretched to the limit. We already use most of the farmland on the planet and have exhausted most of the world’s fisheries. Our ability to produce food, one of our great successes as a species, is rapidly depleting. If we do not innovate and seriously transform our methods for feeding the world’s population, we will soon find ourselves at a point where we can no longer feed our growing population.

A number of factors make aquaculture one of the most efficient forms of food production available, particularly open ocean fish farming. First, it’s important to understand that fish are cold-blooded, meaning they do not use lots of energy to warm their bodies, like chicken, pigs or cattle do. Fish use the water around them to support their bones while land-dwelling animals require large amounts of energy to support their bodies against gravity. Additionally, the water environment enables fish to occupy more space and grow in far larger quantities per square foot than any animal raised in a field. Simply put, fish waste less of our precious land. Let’s also not forget that land-raised protein, whether animal or crop, requires massive amounts of fresh water to grow. Aquaculture requires almost no fresh water for the fish to thrive. FULL POST

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Filed under: Food • The Next List • Video • World
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