Money and Happiness

You may not believe that money buys happiness but it certainly correlates with it.

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Climate Change and Global Security

No longer can we talk about efforts at environmental change as only pertaining to the sustainability of individual countries when in fact the pressing global problems of poverty and conflict have – at some level – their roots in the devastating effects of climate change. 

Climate Change now seen as a question of Global Security

Once viewed as an issue of interest only to greens or academics, the threat posed by climate change to security is now eyed with deepening concern by politicians and defence chiefs.

Droughts and floods which devastate crops and rising seas which imperil coastal cities will become potent triggers for famine, disease and homelessness, in turn inflaming tensions and leading to unrest, say experts.

Indeed, some suspect that climate change is already an invisible driver of turbulence.

The conflict in Sudan’s Darfur, caused by an exceptional drought that impoverished herding communities and forced them to migrate, has been cited as just such an illustration.

Another example may be this year’s revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, where food prices, propelled by devastating heatwaves in big grain-growing countries, fanned hunger, and then anger, among the poor.

“Extreme weather events continue to grow more frequent and intense in rich and poor countries alike, not only devastating lives but also infrastructure, institutions and budgets — an unholy brew which can create dangerous security vacuums,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in July at a Security Council debate.

Climate change “not only exacerbates threats to international peace and security; it is a threat to international peace and security,” he said.

In its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon said climate shift “could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation and the further weakening of fragile governments.”

“While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict,” it said.

Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, an envoy for climate and energy security at Britain’s ministry of defence, said climate migration was one of the hidden factors in this equation.

“What happens to those people who lose their land or who lose their livelihood?” Morisetti said at a conference in London last month.

“If they migrate, is it planned, coordinated, manageable migration in a country or between countries? Or is it unplanned mass migration that causes tension?

“If they lose their livelihood because of rising sea levels, rising temperatures, loss of crop yields, do they find a legal livelihood to replace that? Or are they susceptible to recruitment into crime, ultimately (becoming) a five-dollars-a-day AK-47 terrorist?”

Morisetti said the biggest risks were “in the equatorial belt, where we have seen conflict time and time again in the last 40 or 50 years, partly because the countries there and their governments do not have the capacity and the resilience to cope with those stresses and look after their population.”

In a paper published last month by the US journal Science, an international team of researchers said “climate-related resettlement” was already underway in Vietnam’s Mekong delta, along the Limpopo River of Mozambique, in China’s Inner Mongolia, the coast of Alaska and the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea.

Calling for help to ensure fair and orderly migration, they urged changes to national and international law and the involvement of climate-threatened communities in deciding where they would be resettled.

Other factors in the murky interface between climate and security are health — especially through the expansion of mosquito- and water-borne disease — and the amplified risk of hunger and poverty from rising food prices.

Wheat, corn and sorghum have all seen global spikes in the past 18 months, but in the drought-hit Horn of Africa their prices have at times doubled or tripled compared to a five-year average.

Rice in flood-affected Thailand and Vietnam is some 25 percent more expensive than a year ago.

In February, the World Bank estimated 44 million people in developing economies had fallen into extreme poverty through spiralling food prices.

“For the poorest who spend up to 75 percent of their income on food, price rises on this scale can have consequences as families are forced into impossible trade-offs in a desperate bid to feed themselves,” Oxfam said on Monday at the start of the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa.

Richard Ingham of AFP (link here)

Human Population Reaches 7 Billion–How Did This Happen and Can It Go On?

On October 31, 2011, a particularly special person will be born—the seven billionth human alive, according to United Nations demographers. He or she could be delivered by a starving mother in the growing wastelands of Somalia, a failed-state gripped by famine and war. The best odds are that the child will be born in India, which has the highest rate of births per minute in the world. She may even be an American girl, heiress to a complex legacy that is in no small part responsible for the fact that, for better or worse, people are shaping the destiny of the planet that engendered humanity.

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7 Billion: Can the Earth take it?

Why the Real Victim of Overpopulation Will Be the Environment
by Bryan Walsh from TIME (link here

Maybe it’s just the fact that the official day has been set for Oct. 31 — Halloween — but there’s a distinct whiff of panic and fear around the expected birth of the 7 billionth person on the planet. Here’s Roger Martin, chair of the NGO Population Matters, writing in the Guardian recently:

The 7 Billion Day is a sobering reminder of our planet’s predicament. We are increasing by 10,000 an hour. The median UN forecast is 9.3 billion by 2050, but the range varies by 2.5 billion — the total world population in 1950 — depending on how we work it out.

Every additional person needs food, water and energy, and produces more waste and pollution, so ratchets up our total impact on the planet, and ratchets down everyone else’s share — the rich far more than the poor. By definition, total impact and consumption are worked out by measuring the average per person multiplied by the number of people. Thus all environmental (and many economic and social) problems are easier to solve with fewer people, and ultimately impossible with ever more.

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Attribute Words

Here are some essay tips–gleaned from various consultations over the past few days–on analyzing attribute words.

Is the elimination of global poverty a realistic aim? 
A key notion here is persistence [now to future time scope]. We’re looking  at whether it is a sensible or practical to adopt such an aim. Based on an informed assessment of current efforts and mindsets, you can then suggest whether future efforts to solve poverty will really work or continue to be hindered. If you say that is not a realistic aim, you then need to justify why current obstacles to it will persist and continue to impeded any attempts now or in future to completely eliminate it. If you say that is is realistic, you need to likewise argue for why the current obstacles would fail to persist could one day really be eliminated by our efforts.

E.g.

  • Given the innately power hungry or selfish nature of humans, we can expect complete elimination of poverty to be an elusive aim as corrupted or dishonest government officials in impoverished societies will continue to impede aid efforts.
  • The forces of nature also make the elimination of poverty impractical as the magnitude and unpredictability of natural disasters coupled with harsh geographical climates will continue to overpower aid and developmental efforts.

Better students might even examine whether this is even a desirable aim at all (this could especially be applied to the question of whether education for all is realistic aim).

‘The government, not the people, should be responsible for protecting the environment.’ Do you agree?
Ways to think about responsibility (with help from Oxford English Dictionary)

  • Who has the biggest moral obligation?  –> government supposed to care for people’s welfare?
  • Who has the greatest control over it? –> government has power, resources and managerial ability?
  • Whose fault is it? –> government was most at fault for it? negligence in the past?

Unpacking what responsibility means will go a great way in helping you organize your points and employ clear criteria in assessing who is the primary agent responsible for it.

‘Money is everything.’ Is this true in your society?
Any question dealing with specified contexts must make explicit and through consideration of the larger contextual traits (e.g. materialistic, competitive, educated, democratic, multiracial etc.)  in your arguments (if context is not specified, assume it’s talking about the modern world)
How can we unpack what ‘everything’ might mean?
  • Main purpose or goal? –> are people largely driven by money in their pursuits?
  • Highly treasured or valued? –> is money what people treasure and protect and the end of the day?
  • A vital element? –> money essential for the running of different institutions or organs in society?
  • Existing everywhere? –> money plays a part in everything (breadth, as opposed to depth)
Similar to the above question, unpacking what ‘everything’ means will go a great way in helping you organize your points and employ clear criteria in assessing whether it really is everything.

‘Movies are fun but useless.’ Comment. 
We go back to our family words denoting importance (i.e. necessary, important, purpose). For something to be considered useful, two key considerations are needed
  • The peculiar traits of movies (e.g. visual, about 2 hours long, widely marketed, complex industry, celebrities etc.)
  • The peculiar needs of modern society (e.g. sources of inspiration and creativity, heritage and nostalgia, economic progress, self-expression, activism, knowledge etc) and whether these needs are already met by other mediums
Once you can connect to the traits to the needs, you have a case for saying why movies may go beyond being fun. Describing how the existence of documentary films is certainly not as persuasive as an argument discussing how the peculiar traits of movies  (as a medium) lead directors and producers to use it as a platform (over other mediums) to raise awareness and impart knowledge (meet needs) to an info-hungry and educated audience.

Poverty of Knowledge in Dealing with Poverty

Many of you want to attempt the ‘poverty’ question, and many of you attempted the question from the 2009 paper.

While the answers reflected skill and thought in addressing the question’s requirements, what was perhaps more shocking was the fact most of you wrote like we never covered the topic with you in the past 2 years. Vague references to ‘Africa’, lack of awareness of foreign aid efforts and haphazard generic and technical economics and geography textbook descriptions won’t get you anywhere.

Please, if you ever do another ‘poverty’ question again, get up to speed with the basic facts and trends regarding poverty an wider global development today. If not, your arguments will just look nice little ideas and will be unfortunately assessed as just that–nice little ideas. Please do not ignore the utter power of solid substantiation and contextual knowledge.

MUST READS for anyone who dares to claim to be focusing on poverty and global development:

The Poverty Lecture for a start?

Global Issues

UN Millennium Development Goals

Global Policy Forum

Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN 

One World Global Poverty Guide

Make Poverty History: What do We Want?

The Guardian’s Global Development Page

Know what to expect. You could perhaps do a simple mind map with ‘Poverty’ in the middle and just branch out on several issues pertaining to it (e.g. best solution? primary causes? links to food or water security?) with brief arguments and examples.