All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

- JRR Tolkien



Jul 11, 2019

Skateistan: How Skateboarding is Changing the Story for Kids in Need

Skateistan’s creative blend of skateboarding instruction and classroom programs empowers underprivileged youth, especially young girls, to build a better future.


Davey Braun

Over my entire adult life, I’ve read about Afghanistan in the news, but only in the most general, blanket terms, as a place where soldiers go to fight. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never taken a moment to think about what life is like for children growing up there, let alone what I could possibly do to help. What kind of hardships and challenges do kids, especially young girls, face on a daily basis?

In Afghanistan today, many women don’t hold jobs, they don’t drive or ride bicycles – these are all activities deemed just for men. More often than not, young girls cannot go to school because it’s not safe to commute there from their homes. Instead, they are forced to work on the street.

For many young girls in Kabul, Afghanistan, it is not safe to go to school. Photo: Andy Buchanan.

However, Skateistan is Changing that Story by building an inclusive educational infrastructure, and it all started with one man and his three skateboards on the streets of Kabul in 2007.

Skateistan is an award-winning international non-profit organization that provides a unique blend of skateboarding instruction and educational programs to empower children to change the trajectory of their lives and their communities. Donate today and you can help to change these children’s stories, too.

Taliban control in Afghanistan all but decimated the educational system. More than half of Skateistan’s students were working in the streets or living in temporary camps after fleeing conflict in their home provinces. Skateistan launched its Back-to-School program to help these children, many of whom had never written their own name before, to enroll in the public school system.

Girls studying in Skateistan’s Back to School program in Kabul. Photo: Andy Buchanan.

Although Skateistan originated with one skate school in Kabul, Afghanistan, over the past decade, it has expanded to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Johannesburg, South Africa. Over 2,500 children attend Skateistan’s programs, and 50% of all students are girls.


Worldwide, only 5% of skateboarders are girls, but in Afghanistan, 50% of all skateboarders are girls, making it the largest female sport in the country. That’s the Skateistan difference. Through its Skate and Create program, which started over a decade ago, local children could attend weekly skateboarding instruction apace with an educational curriculum where they learned about topics such as human rights, cultural studies, nutrition, and the environment. Over time, each registered student started spending an equal amount of time learning in the classroom as on a skateboard, with some children sitting in a classroom for the first time in their lives.

Girls learn self confidence through Skateistan’s classroom programs as well as skateboarding instruction. Photo: Andy Buchanan.

Skateboarding builds life skills like self-confidence and perseverance. Through skateboarding, falling is a part of the process, so students experience firsthand that falling isn’t failing, it’s learning. They learn how to pick themselves back up and try again. In addition, the community aspects of skateboarding unite people from different socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, and beliefs – like a universal, physical language.

In Kabul, girls can attend girls-only skate sessions at Skateistan’s indoor facility, the first of its kind in the country. Photo: Andy Buchanan.

The Citizens of Skateistan is a global community of students, staff, skaters, and supporters who share the dream of empowering and educating youth through skateboarding. By donating $10 or more a month you become a Citizen and help make it possible for thousands of youth to attend Skateistan programs worldwide.


Skateistan began as an idea when Australian skateboarder and researcher Oliver Percovich arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2007, carrying with him three skateboards and an open spirit. He noticed that although 70% of the country was under the age of 25 due to war-times, little was being done to bolster the education of the country’s youth. Oliver began running local skate sessions, gathering sponsors, and dedicating himself full-time to creating the first international development initiative to combine skateboarding with educational outcomes.

By 2009, Skateistan opened its first indoor facility – a safe space for children to learn to skate – complete with classrooms and an office. The skate school, Afghanistan’s first skatepark and its largest indoor sports facility, was built on land donated by the Afghanistan National Olympic Committee. Skateistan launched a suite of programs for children aged 5 to 17 with a focus on girls, children living with a disability, and children from low-income backgrounds. Later that year, Skateistan was presented with the ‘NGO of the Year’ award at the Peace and Sport Forum in Monaco.


With skateboarding legend Tony Hawk on its Global Advisory Board, Skateistan could not have a better ally to help carry out its vision. Skateistan is also represented by the youngest star in the skateboarding world, 10-year-old phenom Sky Brown. Sky showed off her skills at the skate school launch in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. As an ambassador, Sky helped design a board with Almost Skateboards, and a portion of all proceeds go directly to Skateistan.org. To date, Sky has helped raise $20,000.

You can order Sky’s board here.

In our next installment, The Outdoor Journal speaks with Jessica Faulkner, the Communications Manager at Skateistan’s Berlin headquarters, about her role within the organization, how Skateistan builds strong relationships within communities despite cultural differences, designing gender inclusive programs to encourage young girls to skate, developing classroom programs to focus on life skills like resilience and determination, and the best way that readers can get involved and become a Citizen of Skateistan themselves.

Visit www.skateistan.org for more information, or follow Skateistan on social media:

Instagram: @skateistan
Facebook: @skateistan
Twitter: @skateistan

Feature Image: Skate School students in Phnom Phen prepare to drop down a ramp. Photo: Andy Buchanan

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Aug 20, 2019

Antarctica’s largest floating ice shelf is highly sensitive to warming of the ocean

Much of West Antarctica’s ice lies below sea level, and warming ocean temperatures may lead to runaway ice sheet retreat.



Dan Lowry

Scientists have long been concerned about the potential collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and its contribution to global sea-level rise. Much of West Antarctica’s ice lies below sea level, and warming ocean temperatures may lead to runaway ice sheet retreat.

This process, called marine ice sheet instability, has already been observed along with parts of the Amundsen Sea region, where warming of the ocean has led to melting underneath the floating ice shelves that fringe the continent. As these ice shelves thin, the ice grounded on land flows more rapidly into the ocean and raises the sea level.

Although the Amundsen Sea region has shown the most rapid changes to date, more ice actually drains from West Antarctica via the Ross Ice Shelf than any other area. How this ice sheet responds to climate change in the Ross Sea region is, therefore, a key factor in Antarctica’s contribution to global sea-level rise in the future.

Periods of past ice sheet retreat can give us insights into how sensitive the Ross Sea region is to changes in ocean and air temperatures. Our research, published today, argues that ocean warming was a key driver of glacial retreat since the last ice age in the Ross Sea. This suggests that the Ross Ice Shelf is highly sensitive to changes in the ocean.

History of the Ross Sea

Since the last ice age, the ice sheet retreated more than 1,000km in the Ross Sea region – more than any other region on the continent. But there is little consensus among the scientific community about how much climate and the ocean have contributed to this retreat.

Much of what we know about the past ice sheet retreat in the Ross Sea comes from rock samples found in the Transantarctic Mountains. Dating techniques allow scientists to determine when these rocks were exposed to the surface as the ice around them retreated. These rock samples, which were collected far from where the initial ice retreat took place, have generally led to interpretations in which the ice sheet retreat happened much later than, and independently of, the rise in air and ocean temperatures following the last ice age.

But radiocarbon ages from sediments in the Ross Sea suggest an earlier retreat, more in line with when climate began to warm from the last ice age.

An iceberg floating in the Ross Sea – an area that is sensitive to warming in the ocean.
Rich Jones, CC BY-ND

Using models to understand the past

To investigate how sensitive this region was to past changes, we developed a regional model of the Antarctic ice sheet. The model works by simulating the physics of the ice sheet and its response to changes in ocean and air temperatures. The simulations are then compared to geological records to check accuracy.

Our main findings are that warming of the ocean and atmosphere were the main causes of the major glacial retreat that took place in the Ross Sea region since the last ice age. But the dominance of these two controls in influencing the ice sheet evolved through time. Although air temperatures influenced the timing of the initial ice sheet retreat, ocean warming became the main driver due to melting of the Ross Ice Shelf from below, similar to what is currently observed in the Amundsen Sea.

The model also identifies key areas of uncertainty of past ice sheet behaviour. Obtaining sediment and rock samples and oceanographic data would help to improve modelling capabilities. The Siple Coast region of the Ross Ice Shelf is especially sensitive to changes in melt rates at the base of the ice shelf, and is therefore a critical region to sample.

Implications for the future

Understanding processes that were important in the past allows us to improve and validate our model, which in turn gives us confidence in our future projections. Through its history, the ice sheet in the Ross Sea has been sensitive to changes in ocean and air temperatures. Currently, ocean warming underneath the Ross Ice Shelf is the main concern, given its potential to cause melting from below.

Challenges remain in determining exactly how ocean temperatures will change underneath the Ross Ice Shelf in the coming decades. This will depend on changes to patterns of ocean circulation, with complex interactions and feedback between sea ice, surface winds and melt water from the ice sheet.

Given the sensitivity of ice shelves to ocean warming, we need an integrated modelling approach that can accurately reproduce both the ocean circulation and dynamics of the ice sheet. But the computational cost is high.

Ultimately, these integrated projections of the Southern Ocean and Antarctic ice sheet will help policymakers and communities to develop meaningful adaptation strategies for cities and coastal infrastructure exposed to the risk of rising seas.The Conversation

Dan Lowry, PhD candidate, Victoria University of Wellington

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Cover photo: Since the last ice age, the ice sheet retreated over a thousand kilometres in the Ross Sea region, more than any other region on the continent.
Rich Jones, CC BY-ND


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