The Human Consciousness Now...Our World in the Midst of Becoming...to What? Observe, contemplate Now.
Two fisherwomen walk along the seashore in Nemmeli. The village that saw widespread destruction in the 2004 tsunami and several cyclones since now has a unique community college where locals can learn disaster management. Half the students are women. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS
- Ten years have now passed, but Raghu Raja, a 27-year-old fisherman from the coastal village of Nemmeli in southern Indiaâs Kachipuram district, still clearly remembers the day he escaped the tsunami.
It was a sleepy Sunday morning when Raja, then a student, saw a wall of seawater moving forward, in seeming slow motion. Terrified, he broke into a run towards the two-storey cyclone shelter that stood at the rear of his village, along an interstate highway.
Once there, the teenager watched in utter bewilderment as the wall of water hammered his village flat.
“I didnât know what was happening, why the sea was acting like that,â Raja recalls.
Later, he heard that the seabed had been shaken by an earthquake, triggering a tsunami. It was a new word for Nemmeli, a village of 4,360 people. The tsunami destroyed all the houses that stood by the shore, 141 in Rajaâs neighbourhood alone.
A decade later, the cyclone shelter that once saved the lives of Raghu Raja and his fellow villagers is a college that teaches them, among other things, Â about natural disasters like tsunamis and how best to survive them.
The state-funded college was established in 2011. One of its primary goals was to build disaster resilience among communities in the vulnerable coastal villages. Affiliated with the University of Madras, the college offers undergraduate degrees in commerce and sciences, including disaster management and disaster risk reduction.
Today a married father of two, Raja, whose education ended after 10th grade, dreams that one day his children will attend this college.
Understanding the dangers that surround them
Miriam Pemberton directs the Peace Economy Transitions Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.
Oil pumps in southern Russia. Photo: Gennadiy Kolodkin/World Bank
- After months of whispered warnings, Russiaâs economic troubles made global headlines when its currency collapsed halfway through December. Amid the tumbling price of oil, the ruble has fallen to record lows, bringing the country to its most serious economic crisis since the late 1990s.
Topping most lists of reasons for the collapse is Russiaâs failure to diversify its economy. At least some of the flaws in its strategy of putting all those eggs in that one oil-and-gas basket are now in full view.
Once upon a time, Russia did actually try some diversification â back before the oil and gas âsolutionâ came to seem like such a good idea. It was during those tumultuous years when history was pushing the Soviet Union into its grave. Central planners began scrambling to convert portions of the vast state enterprise of military production â the enterprise that had so bankrupted the empire â to produce the consumer goods that Soviet citizens had long gone without.
One day the managers of a Soviet tank plant, for example, received a directive to convert their production lines to produce shoes. The timetable was: do it today. They didnât succeed.
Economic development experts agree that the time to diversify is not after an economic shock, but before it. Scrambling is no way to manage a transition to new economic activity. Since the bloodless end to the Cold War was foreseen by almost nobody, significant planning for an economic transition in advance wasnât really in the cards.
But now, in the United States at least, it is. Currently the country is in the first stage of a modest defence downsizing. Weâre about a third of the way through the 10-year framework of defence cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Assuming Congress doesnât scale back this plan or even dismantle it altogether, the resulting downsizing will still be the shallowest in U.S. history. Itâs a downsizing of the post-9/11 surge, during which Pentagon spending nearly doubled. So the cuts will still leave a U.S. military budget higher, adjusting for inflation, than it was during nearly every year of the Cold War â back when we had an actual adversary, the aforementioned Soviet Union, that was trying to match us dollar for military dollar.
Now, no such adversary exists. Thinking of China? Not even close: The United States spends about six times as much on its military as Beijing.
Anantha Duraiappah is Director of the UNESCO / Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development in New Delhi & Director of the Inclusive Wealth Report, a collaboration of the UN Environment Programme and UN University.
Mismanagement of Indiaâs vast river system has caused severe water stress in urban and rural landscapes, with many water bodies too polluted for human use. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS
- Virtually all countries use Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as their primary measurement of economic progress and overall societal progress. At the same time, countries express allegiance to the doctrine of sustainable development. This exposes an obvious disconnect.
GDP measures the value of all the goods and services a country produces. Thus, maximising production is the best way of achieving high GDP. And increasing production is fine as long as it is within oneâs means to maintain that production.
But relate this in terms of personal spending patterns: our list of desirables are seemingly infinite â- the majority of us have insatiable appetites constrained only by personal budgets.
The fertility of tropical soil can be appreciated at this market stall in the Amazon city of Belem do ParÃ¡ in northern Brazil. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS
- Latin America and the Caribbean should use sustainable production techniques to ensure healthy soil, the basic element in agriculture, food production and the fight against hunger.
âKeeping the soil healthy makes food production possible,â said RaÃºl BenÃtez, regional director for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). âWithout good soil, food production is undermined, and becomes more difficult and costly.â
âWe are often not aware that it can take 1,000 years to generate one centimetre of healthy soil, but we can lose that centimetre in a few seconds as a result of pollution, toxic waste, or misuse of the soil,â he said in an interview with TierramÃ©rica.
Despite its importance, 33 percent of the planetâs soil is degraded by physical, chemical or biological causes, which is reflected in a reduction in plant cover, soil fertility, and pollution of the soil and water, and which leads to impoverished harvests, FAO warns.
The chairman of a Tashkent polling station opens a curtain to a voting booth during the Uzbek presidential election of December 2007. Uzbekistanâs Dec. 21 parliamentary elections feature only four staunchly pro-regime parties to fill the 150-seat lower house, or the Legislative Chamber. No opposition parties are permitted to legally exist in Uzbekistan, and independent candidates are barred from standing. Credit: OSCE
- Uzbekistan’s parliamentary elections on Dec. 21 will offer voters a choice, but no hope for change.
Only four staunchly pro-regime parties â the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, the Peopleâs Democratic Party of Uzbekistan, as well as the National Revival and the Justice parties â can field candidates for the elections to fill the 150-seat lower house, or the Legislative Chamber.
- An unprecedented number of United Nations special rapporteurs and independent experts are raising pointed concerns over the World Bankâs ongoing review of its pioneering environmental and social safeguards, particularly around the role that human rights will play in these revamped policies.
In a letter made public Tuesday, 28 U.N. experts raise fears that the Washington-based development funder could foster a ârace to the bottomâ if proposed changes go forward. The document accuses the bank of selective interpretation of its own charter and its obligations under international law.
â[B]y contemporary standards the [safeguards revision] seems to go out of its way to avoid any meaningful references to human rights and international human rights law, except for passing references,â the letter, addressed to World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, states.
â[T]he Bankâs proposed new Safeguards seem to view human rights in largely negative terms, as considerations that, if taken seriously, will only drive up the cost of lending rather than contributing to ensuring a positive outcome.â
The World Bank says its safeguards constitute a âcornerstoneÂ of its support to sustainable poverty reductionâ, and the institution is currently updating these policies for the first time in two decades. Yet when the bank released a draft revision of those changes in July, the proposal set off a firestorm of criticism across civil society.
Critics warn that the revisions would allow the World Bank to shift responsibility for adherence to certain social and environmental policies on to loan recipients, while prioritising self-monitoring over up-front requirements. The new guidelines could also exempt recipient governments from abiding by certain aspects of the policies.
Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Minister of Industries of Cuba, addresses the General Assembly on Dec. 11, 1964. UN Photo/TC
- When the politically-charismatic Ernesto Che Guevera, once second-in-command to Cuban leader Fidel Castro, was at the United Nations to address the General Assembly sessions back in 1964, the U.N. headquarters came under attack – literally.
The speech by the Argentine-born Marxist revolutionary was momentarily drowned by the sound of an explosion.