Little known fact: soccer stud David Beckham has been a UNICEF ambassador for seven years! As if being married to Posh Spice wasn’t sufficiently time-consuming. And evidently his humanitarianism is not just a front – the father of three recently flew to Sierra Leone, an impoverished African country with the world’s highest child death rate, to show his support and offer suggestions.
“We can’t turn a blind eye to the tens of thousands of young children who die every day in the developing world mostly from causes that are preventable,” Beckham said. “In Sierra Leone, one in four children dies before reaching their fifth birthday — it’s shocking and tragic especially when the solutions are simple.”
I admit it. I have listened to the argument that starvation is the world’s way of cleansing itself of overpopulation, and there is a part of the argument that makes sense on a broad, systems level. What the argument doesn’t take into account is that there is plenty of food to go around. In fact, the food glut is so bad in America that farmers are paid to leave productive fields fallow in order to stabilize prices on overproduced crops such as corn and rice.
Food is taken for granted in industrialized nations where the question is not “Is there anything to eat?” but “Hmm… What should we eat?” Delicacies abound and food is so cheap that obesity rates for lower-incomes exceed those for the more affluent, adding a tragic irony to world food problems and due in large part to multi-national food chains such as McDonald’s.
It’s all in the numbers: the price of zinc has doubled over the past five years; the price of copper has tripled; sugar went up 104% in 2007; wheat and soy went up 70%; and the “future prices of crude oil, gold, silver, lead, uranium, cattle, cocoa and corn are all at or near records”.
The reasons behind the sharp ascent in commodity prices have been attributed to many factors, including growth in India, the economies of oil rich Russia and Saudi Arabia, energy, speculators, the weak dollar and a Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
Can money buy happiness? The most recent research shows that below a certain income, people are definitely less happy, and that beyond that level, happiness doesn’t really increase. The question today is now shifting to whether we can actually buy our way out of global warming. To me the question is hilarious. Has world capitalism come so far that we actually believe we can buy anything, including “carbon offsets”?
One word for those who think they can: indulgences. And who will be the next Martin Luther, nailing his theses to the door of society’s power-house? I’ll gladly take my turn outlining the gluttonous, unrealistic and self-destructing attitudes of the existing corporate culture that dominates our lives.
I have a dirty little secret — I’ve had a long love affair with FIJI water for years now. I’ve even thought about disguising it in Sigg Water bottles, so no one would know what I was drinking and try to run me down with their Prius. It’s just water, yet I feel like I’m carrying around an open bottle of whiskey in a church.
Honestly, I’ve tried to like other waters but just couldn’t. At one time I was on an Avian kick cause I liked their water coming in glass, but then once I discovered FIJI I kicked them to the side. It’s really hard to go back to anything else – everything else just tastes weird to me. Don’t even get me started on the evils of tap water. Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
You know, Al Gore just might be on to something. A recent study reveals that “the rate of annual ice loss in the Antarctic has increased by almost 80 billion tons in a decade…and that rate of loss has sped up by 140 percent since 1996”. The Times reports that these findings challenge previous research that suggested overall ice quantities would increase due to greater snowfall.
West Antarctica was hit hardest, with an estimated 132 billion tons disappearing in 2006, pushing annual ice loss up 49 billion per year. The Antarctic Peninsula’s rate of ice loss was even faster – rising from 25 billion to 60 billion – despite lower overall quantities. East Antarctica was least affected.
Professor Jonathan Bamber from the University of Bristol, part of the international team of scientists studying changes in ice cover, says “This is another observation that confirms the trend in what’s happening around the world. We’ve seen the same thing in mountain glaciers, in Greenland, Patagonia and the same thing in Alaska.”
Worrying stuff. When pressed about the role global warming had to play in these trends, the Professor was ambivalent. Although the conceded changes in ice are due to warmer water temperatures, he states that “there are changes taking place now that are a result of what happened to the climate 12,000 years ago”.
Does this mean we’re off the hook? Absolutely not. Ice loss in Antarctica “has the potential to be biggest cause of rising sea levels in coming decades”. So, unless you want to live in Venice (Italy, not California), listen to Al. He’s definitely on to something.
Senior political officials, think tanks, industry experts and academics from Australia and the US congregated in Los Angeles last week for a symposium on climate change and energy. “The Road to Renewables” is a key event in this year’s Australia Week line-up. “It will focus on one of the most pressing issues facing Australia and the United States — the transition from fossil fuels to renewable technologies”, said Innes Willox, Australian Consul General to Los Angeles.
The forum explored the development of renewable technologies as well as the real-world applications, challenges and specific case studies in the areas of power generation, urban development, transportation and emissions trading. Far from the rhetoric that sometimes dominates symposiums such as these, The Road to Renewables offered a real exchange of information. Interesting questions were posed, like: what’s the one biggest game changer for the next 20 years? Responses varied from a complete move to renewables (for necessarily cutback CO2 emissions by 80%) to a reduction of energy usage (in the future, work would leave countries with low labor cost and flow to those with low energy costs) to putting a price tag on carbon.
According to either the 1963 or the 1983 CIA Interrogation Manual (or possibly both — I’m a blogger, not a journalist), research concluded that after a crisis, be it real or perceived, a subject in shock reverts to a childlike state. Stunned into submission, the subject is more likely to follow a leader who tells him/her that everything is going to be okay.
Naomi Klein, in her book The Shock Doctrine, doesn’t make me feel like it’s all going to be okay. Her book makes me want a warm glass of milk and my blankie.
I admit it. I drive a truck to work, by myself, on a 15-mile, one-way commute. Not very green, right? There is a benefit, however. I get to listen to NPR’s “Morning Edition” and gain beneficial insight into the otherwise blasé news world. An interview last week with permaculture expert, Brad Lancaster, turned my attention to the interesting world of water harvesting Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos
When you think of Italy, you think caprese salad, Prada, vespas and gelato (or is that just me?). Well, here’s a new association for you: Chikungunya.
Doesn’t sound familiar? That’s because this relative of Dengue fever is normally found only in the tropics. But it’s what some unlucky residents of Castiglione di Cervia got to experience firsthand last summer.
Panic spread in this northern Italian village after about 100 of its residents “fell ill with weeks of high fever, exhaustion and excruciating bone pain,” according to an article in the New York Times. While doctors were initially stumped by the symptoms, fearful residents blamed it on everything from pollution in the river to the government to immigrants.
Only a couple of Hollywood’s leading men impress me: Johnny Depp is one of them, for obvious reasons. The other is George Clooney. Intelligent, compassionate, talented and witty (not to mention easy on the eye), Clooney’s film choices – “Good Night and Good Luck”, “Syriana”, “Michael Clayton” — mirror his real-life views on politics and the world. Dubbed “The King of Liberal Hollywood”, Clooney slams the US’s reliance on oil from the Middle East, is a senior campaigner with the Make Poverty History movement and is dedicated to raising awareness about the crisis in Darfur.
We need to reduce our dependency on foreign oil, right? Colombia is perhaps best known for its history of trafficking narcotics, high-profile kidnappings and a futbol player with a huge afro. In the next 50 years it may become better known as the birthplace of small, green, eco-cities Continue Reading / Additional Photos / Videos