Ernie

Ernie

We can’t argue with Hugh Herr, a double amputee, who says he’s not disabled. First of all, he’s a professional climber; secondly, when he walks using prosthetics he created himself, you really can’t tell from his gait. Hugh Herr currently directs the Biomechatronics research group at MIT Media Lab, and we owe him for the first-ever intelligent prosthetics, which utilize bionics to work like real body parts. His company, “iWalk,” has helped veterans, amputees, and stroke victims get their lives back. As he envisions a world where disability doesn’t exist, it’s certainly safe to call him a visionary.

We have this persisting opinion of lawyers as dishonest and interested only in money; Mahesh Chander Mehta, also known as M.C. Mehta, disproves these generalizations. He is an environmental lawyer based in India, his home country, where bureaucracy is not for the faint-hearted. M.C. won cases to protect the Taj Mahal, Ganges River, and many other historical sites. He upholds Indian’s Right to Life, Polluters Must Pay, the Precautionary Principle, and the Public Trust Principle, and wins cases through sheer hard work and impeccable integrity. He does not earn much, but the respect he has won is priceless.

Age was not something Parker Liautaud considered when he decided to help save the planet. He’s been called a show-off, a spoilt kid and a “climate change clown;” some could not bring themselves to believe that a person under 20 would literally walk halfway around the world just to get his global warming message across. Parker was not even the athletic type in the first place – but, after working hard, he became the youngest person to ever complete a Last Degree expedition to the Geographic North Pole.

What hope is there for children whose mothers are addicted to drugs, homeless or otherwise desperate? They are so absorbed in their misery that they don’t pay enough attention to the babies they are carrying. Or, maybe they care, but their lives are so off-track they don’t know what it’s like to love another human being anymore. We can only give what we have. And, speaking of giving, nobody does it better than Martha Ryan, a registered nurse who founded the “Homeless Prenatal Program” to help end childhood poverty.

As tribe leader, Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui had to do something to save “Paiter Surui,” his niche in the Amazon Forest. Loggers did not give up easily, considering the century-old trees they hoped to bring in. When this Surui Chief began to act against logging, a bounty was put on his head, forcing him to leave his people for seven months. More determined than ever, Chief Almir kept his partnership with Google Earth Outreach and has found a way to liberate his people from loggers through a 50-year development plan.

Plastic destroys our ecosystem, yet we continue to produce it. It’s as if we are only making life more convenient for the present and not the least bit concerned about our children’s fate, who will literally inherit this planet. It’s easy to ignore it for now, especially if we delude ourselves with hope that someone else will figure out a way to solve our problems. Elif Bilgin, a gifted teen from Istanbul, isn’t too selfish to think only of now – she made bio-plastics out of banana peels.

Chad Pregracke definitely does not shy away from getting his hands dirty in the name of water conservation. Since he was 17 years old, Chad has been cleaning up trash in the Mississippi River - which happens to be his backyard – even singlehandedly at first, when no one seemed to care. As a teenager on a mission to clean up the second-longest river in the United States, he is living proof of the adage “leading by example.” Since founding the “Living Lands & Waters” foundation, Chad has not slowed down his barge.

For Nicholas Lowinger, having a comfy pair of shoes is as important as having just the right size of clothing. Shoes can be a source of embarrassment and can trigger bullying. A good pair of shoes can motivate a person to go out there and mingle, confident and comfortable in his/her footwear. At five years old, he gave away shoes he had outgrown. But shoes that don’t fit defeat the purpose. So when he was only 10 years old, he founded Gotta Have Sole, a foundation that gives away new shoes that perfectly fit kids and teens in homeless shelters.

Homaro Cantu is, as are most celebrity chefs, a gifted cook. What makes him different, though, is his unquenchable thirst for anything out of the ordinary. Wikipedia describes him as an inventor first, and a chef second. Why not? He has more than 10 pending patents, including a food replicator, a polymer box, and interactive utensils, all straight from his very own lab, “Cantu Designs.” Moto Restaurant in Chicago is flocked by food enthusiasts who always leave with a full stomach and a mind-boggling dining experience. He has also hosted a TV program and written a cookbook.

Can someone who loves gardening as a hobby really make an impact? Robin Emmons did so with the help of volunteers and donors who made “Sow Much Good” grow from a backyard initiative into a “Movement for Food Justice.” Tired of the rat race, Robin quit her job to do some self-searching; after a few weeks, she was told that her brother was being held in jail for an undiagnosed schizophrenic outburst. Concerned about her brother’s deteriorating health in the mental facility, she volunteered to bring fresh produce from her backyard garden. She soon realized that her purpose was all around her – literally.

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