15 August 2009

Get Up, Stand Up - in October 2009

Over 116 MILLION people took part in 2008, calling on governments to keep their promises of 2000 by ending extreme poverty and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

From the Stand Up Facebook Group:

'In October 2009, Be a part of the world's largest ever solidarity movement against extreme poverty.

Join millions around the world who will stand up against global poverty.

STAND UP Against Poverty is a worldwide call to take action against poverty and inequality and for the Millennium Development Goals.

In 2009, you can take a stand. You can take action.

On October 16,17 and 18 2009 join MILLIONS of people around the globe taking a stand against poverty, calling calling on our leaders to TAKE ACTION now.

In 2000, leaders of 189 countries signed up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a global plan to halve poverty by 2015. The Stand Up campaign strives to remind governments and policy makers of their promise. The promise to end poverty inequality and hunger. The promise to stop children dying from preventable diseases. The promise to ensure basic education for all children, particularly girls. The promise to stop women dying during pregnancy and childbirth. The promise to provide water and sanitation and to protect the environment. Together participants around the world STAND UP to make governments honour their commitments on more and better aid, debt cancellation, trade justice, climate action, gender equality and public accountability.'

Thrill The World!

Check out the videos that breakdown this pop culture icon so you can learn it! I can personally vouch that it is a good cardio workout...

In 2009, the Guinness attempt will be held at 12.30am Greenwich Mean Time on Sunday 25 October (this means if you want to be part of the event, which must be simultaneous to be part of the record, adjust your time zone accordingly).

Excerpt from 'Thrill The World':

'Thrill The World is an annual worldwide simultaneous dance of Michael Jackson's “Thriller.”
  • Volunteer event organizers in cities around the world organize events using the Thrill the World leaders manual and Thrill the World tool box.
  • Anyone can organize an event! No age requirement or experience necessary. And there is no limit to the number of events in each city.
  • Each event has the option to raise money for a local charity of their choice.
  • All official Thrill the World events are included in the numbers for setting and breaking World Records.'

Food Firms Warn of Sugar Shortage

...well that's one way of tackling obesity in the US!

From Wall Street Journal online:

'Some of America's biggest food companies say the U.S. could "virtually run out of sugar" if the Obama administration doesn't ease import restrictions amid soaring prices for the key commodity.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack, the big brands -- including Kraft Foods Inc., General Mills Inc., Hershey Co. and Mars Inc. -- bluntly raised the prospect of a severe shortage of sugar used in chocolate bars, breakfast cereal, cookies, chewing gum and thousands of other products.'

Bono's Call to Action for Africa

Bono on TED Talks - from the TED web site (2006):

'Musician and activist Bono with a riveting talk, arguing that aid to Africa isn't just another celebrity cause; it's a global emergency.

It is an extraordinary fact that the lead singer with the world's biggest rock band is also our generation's most persuasive champion of the downtrodden. Irreverent, funny, iconoclastic and relentless, Bono has become stunningly effective in bringing the world’s most powerful leaders to take seriously the problems of AIDS and African poverty.

After U2's historic Live Aid performance in 1985, Bono traveled to Ethiopia with his wife, Ali. There they spent several weeks helping with a famine relief project.

In 2002, he co-founded DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa). Many credit him as the driving force behind the US government's recent dramatic increase in AIDS funding. And no one who has heard him speak about "our generation's greatest challenge" can come away unmoved.'


'I'd like to be clear about is what this problem is, and what this problem isn't. Because this is not all about charity. This is about justice. Really. This is not about charity. This is about justice. That's right. And that's too bad, because we're very good at charity. Americans, like Irish people, are good at it. Even the poorest neighborhoods give more than they can afford. We like to give, and we give a lot. Look at the response to the tsunami, it's inspiring. But justice is a tougher standard than charity. You see, Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice. It makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties. It doubts our concern. It questions our commitment. Because there is no way we can look at what's happening in Africa, and if we're honest, conclude that it would ever be allowed to happen anywhere else...

As you heard in the film, anywhere else, not here. Not here, not in America, not in Europe. In fact, a head of state that you're all familiar with admitted this to me. And it's really true. There is no chance this kind of hemorrhaging of human life would be accepted anywhere else other than Africa. Africa is a continent in flames. And deep down, if we really accepted that Africans were equal to us, we would all do more to put the fire out. We're standing around with watering cans, when what we really need is the fire brigade.

You see, it's not as dramatic as the tsunami. It's crazy, really, when you think about it. Does stuff have to look like an action movie these days to exist in the front of our brain? The slow extinguishing of countless lives is just not dramatic enough, it would appear. Catastrophes that we can avert are not as interesting as ones we could avert...

There are moments in history when civilization redefines itself. We believe this is one. We believe that this could be the time when the world finally decides that the wanton loss of life in Africa is just no longer acceptable. This could be the time that we finally get serious about changing the future for most people who live on planet Earth...

...There's two things on the line here. There's the continent Africa. But there's also our sense of ourselves. People are starting to figure this out. Movements are springing up. Artists, politicians, pop stars, priests, CEOs, NGOs, mothers' unions, student unions. A lot of people are getting together, and working under this umbrella I told you about earlier, the ONE Campaign. I think they just have one idea in their mind, which is, where you live in the world, should not determine whether you live in the world...

History, like God, is watching what we do. When the history books get written I think our age will be remembered for three things. Really, it's just three things this whole age will be remembered for. The digital revolution, yes. The war against terror, yes. And what we did - or did not do - to put out the fires in Africa. Some say we can't afford to. I say we can't afford not to.'

Ending the Toxic E-Waste Trade

From the Basel Action Network:

'BAN is the world's only organization focused on confronting the global environmental injustice and economic inefficiency of toxic trade (toxic wastes, products and technologies) and its devastating impacts.

Working at the nexus of human rights and environment, we confront the issues of environmental justice at a macro level, preventing disproportionate and unsustainable dumping of the world's toxic waste and pollution on our global village's poorest residents. At the same time we actively promote the sustainable and just solutions to our consumption and waste crises - banning waste trade, while promoting green, toxic free and democratic design of consumer products.'

Check out the following clips of how this is impacting on just two countries, Nigeria and China:

14 August 2009

Night Time Photos Shed Light on Growing Economies

...although GDP ain't all it's cracked up to be!

Excerpt from article @ New Scientist, 14 August 2009

'A better way of estimating GDP is badly needed, especially for poorer nations. Data collected by national governments is weak when it comes to informal sectors of the economy, such as street markets. In some countries, such as Liberia, economic information systems are so poor that meaningful data is sometimes non-existent.

Satellite images could help plug the gap. Nations tend to build new roads and expand residential areas as they become more wealthy, both of which increase the number of lights that can be seen from space.'

Image from NOAA/SPL

Can the UK Deliver its 2030 Food Vision?

Excerpt from full article @ The Ecologist, 11 August 2009

'The UK will need to radically change the way food is produced and processed over the coming decades, according to Defra.

Outlining its vision for the UK's food system in 2030, Defra minister Hilary Benn said we needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve water efficiency and ensure people have access to healthy, safe and affordable food.'

Energy Dinosaurs - Its Time To Evolve

WWF Australia's campaign for clean energy jobs - great image!

'Dinosaurs in politics and big business are blocking the creation of hundreds and thousands of clean energy jobs for Australians.

These dinosaurs risk leaving our economy firmly stuck in the past. Help them to 'evolve'' and to support strong action on climate change.'

...and a brilliant campaign vid:

Yesterday's News - Recycled Colour Pencils

From Inhabitat, 8 August 2009

'Craft bolder headlines with Yesterday’s News’ set of 12 colored pencils, which are made from recycled Chinese newspapers rather than wood.'

Slow Money: A Networked Vision for Funding Local Food

From Working Wikily, 10 August 2009

'The vision for Slow Money is to be the Wall Street of slow food by organizing investment into local food systems. Their stated goals:

To steer significant new sources of capital to small food enterprises, appropriate-scale organic farming and local food systems; and,

To catalyze the emergence of the nurture capital industry—entrepreneurial finance supporting soil fertility, carrying capacity, sense of place, cultural and ecological diversity, and nonviolence.'

Food For All

Food For All is a wiki run by a Geography student at the National University of Singapore - the focus is on food systems and urban ecology.

Consumerism is Eating the Future

Excerpt from full article @ New Scientist, 7 August 2009

'Although we like to think of ourselves as civilised thinkers, we're subconsciously still driven by an impulse for survival, domination and expansion. This is an impulse which now finds expression in the idea that inexorable economic growth is the answer to everything, and, given time, will redress all the world's existing inequalities.The problem with that, according to Rees and Hern, is that it fails to recognise that the physical resources to fuel this growth are finite.

"We're still driven by growing and expanding, so we will use up all the oil, we will use up all the coal, and we will keep going till we fill the Petri dish and pollute ourselves out of existence," he says.'

Global Air and Water Volume Relative to Earth

From Science Photo

'Conceptual computer artwork of the total volume of water on Earth (left) and of air in the Earth's atmosphere (right) shown as spheres (blue and pink). The spheres show how finite water and air supplies are. The water sphere measures 1390 kilometres across and has a volume of 1.4 billion cubic kilometres. This includes all the water in the oceans, seas, ice caps, lakes and rivers as well as ground water, and that in the atmosphere. The air sphere measures 1999 kilometres across and weighs 5140 trillion tonnes. As the atmosphere extends from Earth it becomes less dense. Half of the air lies within the first 5 kilometres of the atmosphere.'

Image from SciencePhoto

As Right As Rain - Natural Sequence Farming

From Australian Story, 6 July 2009

'Four years ago Australian Story featured a farmer and horse breeder called Peter Andrews who seemed to have a rare ability to transform degraded Australian landscapes into thriving oases.

He called it natural sequence farming and it was producing some spectacular results. But for nearly thirty years, Peter Andrews' work was rejected by scientists, bureaucrats and politicians alike until the evidence became difficult to ignore.

The Australian Story episodes on Peter Andrews, generated unprecedented viewer response.

Now some very influential and highly placed Australians have rallied to his cause and the scientific evidence and international interest are building as well.'

...also see Part Two of 'As Right As Rain'

Furry Photobomber

From National Geographic Traveller, 7 August 2009

''My husband & I were exploring in Banff National Park, Canada, when we stopped for a timed picture of the two of us. We had our camera set up on some rocks and were getting ready to take the picture when this curious little ground squirrel appeared...popped right into our shot! We were laughing about this little guy for days!''

13 August 2009

The Psychology of Climate Change: Why We Do Nothing

Excerpt from full article @ The Ecologist, 12 August 2009

'...Anxiety and helplessness, argues a report published last week by the American Psychological Association, rather than ambivalence or apathy are the biggest barriers to individuals taking action...

WWF has produced a number of reports over the past few years looking at psychological barriers to tackling climate change. Dr Crompton said there needed to be a shift away from short-term campaigning.

‘The environmental movement has for too long focused on the policy response, without considering the social and psychological barriers.

‘Policy is critical but if we are going to contemplate the scale of policy intervention needed we are going to have to address the way we work round with these barriers,’ he said...

Among the research currently been done, Renee Lertzman from the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, is looking at the unconscious motivations behind many people’s responses to climate change. 

She has argued previously in the Ecologist that people may simply be paralysed by the size of the problem.

The report identified some key barriers, including:

  • Uncertainty – Research has shown that uncertainty over climate change reduces the frequency of “green” behaviour
  • Mistrust – Evidence shows that most people don’t believe the risk messages of scientists or government officials
  • Social comparison - People routinely compare their actions with those of others and derive subjective and descriptive norms from their observations about what is the “proper” course of action. i.e. Al Gore’s large residence has been used as a justification for inaction
  • Undervaluing risks – A study of more than 3,000 people in 18 countries showed that many people believe environmental conditions will worsen in 25 years. While this may be true, this thinking could lead people to believe that changes can be made later
  • Lack of control – People believe their actions would be too small to make a difference and choose to do nothing
  • Perceived behavioural control - Because climate change is a global problem, many individuals understandably believe that they can do nothing about it. This is the well-known collective action problem
  • Habit – Ingrained behaviours are extremely resistant to permanent change while others change slowly.'