At first it feels like a fun game (or maybe that’s just me). “See if you are deemed worthy of being censored.” And then reality swiftly returns and you realize that the Chinese government is actively denying its citizens access to information.
Until recently, it looked like the depleted ozone layer protecting the earth from harmful solar rays was on its way to being healed.
But thanks in part to an explosion of demand for air-conditioners in hot places like India and southern China â€” mostly relying on refrigerants already banned in Europe and in the process of being phased out in the United States â€” the ozone layer is proving very hard to repair.
I can’t speak to whether the writers’ assessment of Habitat for Humanity’s progress in the US is correct or not. However, I think the piece does bring out how doing disaster recovery work in the U.S. is a different ballgame from doing it overseas. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Habitat has built 416 homes in the gulf coast, compared with 8,500 in Indonesia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka after the Tsunami in 2004. Another question the article brings up is how much can and/or should an established organization change its processes to adapt when faced with a disaster like Katrina. A big criticism levied [no pun intended] against Habitat, for example, is that is was too rigid in sticking to its model of building homes from scratch rather then helping folks renovate.
In his lecture, he asks “If we had $50 billion to spend over the next four years to do good in the world, where should we spend it?” His recommendations – based on the findings of the 2004 Copenhagen Consensus – controversially place global warming at the bottom of the list (and AIDS prevention at the top).
Enjoyable talk. While this is not an infectious disease blog, I feel I’ve gotta mention this point. For me, Lonborg’s results favoring prevention of HIV/AIDS over treatment sent alarm bells ringing. Why? Cost benefit analyses often make a lot of hidden assumptions which all will have varying degrees of truth and validity. I’m guessing that you have to make quite a few of them when trying to figure out whether preventing a case of HIV at this point in the epidemic is of greater benefit than preventing a death of an HIV positive individual. The results will vary based on who each person is, what country you are talking about, etc. etc. Let’s say for example that AIDS is killing off a sizeable chunk of your labor force or the primary care givers or members of the population that your economy might just not want to do without. It may behoove you to spend the extra cash on treatment since training a whole bunch of new teachers, doctors, engineers, etc. would cost more than keeping the ones you already have. Long story short, I’m wondering how they quantified the value of people currently infected with HIV/AIDS. I know that sounds incredibly creepy, but this is exactly what you have to think about when doing cost benefit analyses. You place a value, monetary or otherwise, on people’s lives or their health and wellbeing and determine whether theirs is worth saving. But how do you realistically quantify that amount while taking into consideration the effects (geopolitical, social, etc.) of allowing 40 odd million people to fade away? It’s a non-trivial task to try to do well. So I have a healthy amount of skepticism.
Christmas would not be Christmas without Scrooge, and the bed nets campaign has prompted a few cries of â€œBah! Humbug!â€â€•none of them entirely groundless, it must be admitted. One billionaire who cares deeply about beating malaria recently told The Economist that, when bed nets are given away, they are less likely to get used properly by their impoverished recipients, who may instead treat them as wall hangings or even â€œinsecticide-laced wedding dressesâ€. Jacqueline Novogratz of the Acumen Fund, a much admired non-profit venture fund that invests in entrepreneurial solutions to poverty, and is backed by Google among others, fears that distributing bed nets for free is not a sustainable solution, and that a better approach is to develop private markets for bed nets. Acumen has invested in a firm that sells bed nets for around $3 each, a price within the reach of many, though by no means all, poorer people.
While the delivery here does sound a bit patronizing, from our personal experiences and from what we’ve heard from others, people do behave differently when given and item of technology vs. when they pay for it. Payment is not restricted to money, but also includes time or other types of personal investment.
While I normally think these types of awareness raising concerts are a bit played out (it’s the cynic in me), I think Live Earth is generally a good idea. Unlike Live AID which produced some memorable songs, but didn’t manage to produce long term change, Live Earth may be able to create a larger impact. I’m figuring because it is a piece of a larger multinational movement.
I wonder what their overall measure of success will be. It’ll be tough to gauge.
Also, unfortunately Recycled Life didn’t win it for best documentary short.
Electronic waste plagues China. Photos shot on an assignment for Greenpeace in Guiyi, Guangdong Province, China. Electronic waste, or e-waste, is growing rapidly given the faster rate of obsolescence of electronic equipment.
Here are my favorite appropriate technology, environment, health, climate change, international development or country specific blog posts (and articles) for the past week in no particular order.
This week is rather tech heavy.
Ikea is set to be the first retail store in the United States that charges U.S. customers for each disposable plastic shopping bag used instead of providing them free with purchases.
I don’t know about the rest of Europe, but supermarkets in the UK like Tesco have been doing that for years. 5 or 10p a bag, if I remember correctly. Even though it is a nominal fee, it really does make you think about each bag. Does that really need to be double-bagged since I’m going straight to the car? etc. etc.
And it can take polyethylene bags 1,000 years to decompose.
Countries that have banned single use plastic bags: Rwanda and Bangladesh. South Australia is considering the same.
According to locals in Fumin county, in Chinaâ€™s southwest Yunnan province, workers began arriving last August with heavy equipment to green a small mountainside. But instead of trees and soil they came armed with large paint guns and orders from above to turn the patch of rock a distinctly artificial green. This particular incident may have been an official attempt to improve the feng shui for the nearby forestry bureau office, or, more likely, simply a way of expediting the greening process. Whatever the reasons are, the symbolism is stark. These days it’s as easy to be enchanted by news of the Middle Kingdomâ€™s green dreams as it is to be disappointed by news of setbacks and rampant greenwashing. And the great promise and inconvenient truth of Chinaâ€™s environmental future is nowhere more evident than in its ambitious 2008 â€œGreenâ€ Olympic plans.
Goodbye Washington Consensus … from Poverty and Growth Blog
description of how the World Bank is doing some soul searching about its economic policies in the 1990′s.
The Washington Consensus refers to the list of recommendations that were typically prescribed by the Washington-based financial institutions (World Bank, IMF, etc.) to Latin American countries as of 1989. These were:
Fiscal policy discipline;
Redirection of public spending from indiscriminate (and often regressive) subsidies toward broad-based provision of key pro-growth, pro-poor services like education, health and infrastructure investment
Market determined and positive interest rates
Competitive exchange rates
Liberalization of inward foreign direct investment
While the One Laptop Per Child Project has yet to decide on whether or not they will sell the $150 XO laptop to the public, they already know their biggest customers: governments. Argentina, Brazil, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Thailand and Uruguay have all committed to buying the laptops for their citizenry, but as it turns out, some of these countries have worries that the laptops could end up in the hands of people other than those whom they’re intended for. As a result, OLPC has built a remote kill-switch into XO laptops so they can be remotely deactivated in the event that they are used without authorization.
An appallingly bad idea. Quoting estvir who submitted this story on Digg, “OLPC has anti-piracy measures (Kill switch) which makes WGA [Windows Genuine Advantage] look friendly”.
An Oscilloscope is an electronic measurement devices that is handy to have in the workshop for observing the characteristics of a circuit in real time, debugging, and hardware hacking.
This may not seem like the sexiest thing ever, but oscilloscopes are necessary for testing/troubleshooting electronic equipment such as the ballast load controllers XelaTeco produces. MAKE gives a nice intro to the O-scope, plus lists several tutorials.
A 330-foot-deep sinkhole killed at least two teenagers [Irma and David Soyos] as it swallowed about a dozen homes early Friday and forced the evacuation of nearly 1,000 people in a crowded Guatemala City neighborhood. Officials blamed the sinkhole on recent rains and an underground sewage flow from a ruptured main.
The environmental movement gets a rather unfair and unbalanced treatment judging from the trailer of Mine your business. The filmmakers do however bring up a very interesting question. When, if ever, do environmental concerns trump the needs of a community for economic development?
Even some ardent conservationists acknowledge that the diversity of life on Earth cannot be fully sustained as human populations expand, use more resources, nudge the climate and move weedlike pests and predators from place to place.
Given that some losses are inevitable, the debate among many experts has shifted to an uncomfortable subject: what level of loss is acceptable