Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

September 28 2014

double sérénité

“We can see the application of economic valuation in the real world and the damage that application has in far too many cases already done to communities who depend on and defend their territories against outside decisions that will destroy the land that provides them with a livelihood.”

I remember in the late 1970s how the corporate world essentially invented the use of cost-benefit analysis in health, safety and environmental regulation. It was a brazen attempt to redefine the terms for understanding social ethics and policy in terms favorable to capital and markets.  Instead of seeing the prevention of death, disease and ecological harm as a matter of social justice, period, American industry succeeded in recasting these issues aseconomic matters.  And of course, such arcane issues must be overseen by a credentialed priesthod of economists, not ordinary mortals whose concerns were snubbed as selfish NIMBYism (Not in My Backyard).

And so it came to be that, with the full sanction of law, a dollar sum could be assigned to our health, or to the cost of getting cancer, or to a statistical baby born with birth defects. Regulation was transformed into a pseudo-market transaction.  That mindset has become so pervasive three decades later that people can barely remember when ethical priorities actually trumped big money.

It is therefore a joy to see Barbara Unmüssig’s essay,“Monetizing Nature:  Taking Precaution on a Slippery Slope,”which recently appeared on the Great Transition Initiative website.  Unmüssig is President of the Heinrich Boell Foundation in Germany and a stalwart supporter of the commons, especially in her backing of the 2010 and 2013 conferences in Berlin.

Striking a note that is note heard much these days, Unmüssig points out the serious dangers of seeing the natural world through the scrim of money.  Here is the abstract for her piece:

In the wake of declining political will for environmental protection, many in the environmental community are advocating for the monetization of nature. Some argue that monetization, by revealing the economic contribution of nature and its services, can heighten public awareness and bolster conservation efforts. Others go beyond such broad conceptual calculations and seek to establish tradable prices for ecosystem services, claiming that markets can achieve what politics has not.

However, such an approach collapses nature’s complex functions into a set of commodities stripped from their social, cultural, and ecological context and can pose a threat to the poor and indigenous communities who depend on the land for their livelihood. Although the path from valuation to commodification is not inevitable, it is indeed a slippery slope. Avoiding this pitfall requires a reaffirmation of the precautionary principle and a commitment to democratic decision-making and social justice as the foundations of a sound environmental policy for the twenty-first century.

Unmüssig’s essay is followed by comments by some fantastic commentary by nine ecological economists and environmental policy experts, among others, who take issue with parts of the essay and elaborate on points of agreement.  Among the commentators are the noted ecological economists Herman Daly and Bob Costanza, but there are also some insightful comments by Neera Singh, Jutta Kill and Neil Glazer.

I especially liked biologist Jutta Kill’s comments:

We can see the application of economic valuation in the real world and the damage that application has in far too many cases already done to communities who depend on and defend their territories against outside decisions that will destroy the land that provides them with a livelihood.

And finally, adopting someone else’s frame—the frame that sees “nature” in a way that capital does—by default requires devaluing and undermining the values we (used to) consider worth fighting for. That would likely entail losing moral authority and legitimacy, at least over time. Adopting the concept of economic valuation means adopting the values of actors whose business model is built on limitless growth and the associated wrecking of “nature”—and many people’s livelihoods.

Forestry scholar Neera Singh also has a nice response to the perversity that sees ecological conservation as a sacrifice for which market payment should be paid:

“How can we honor the gift of conservation care labor that goes into the production of ecosystem services in ways that it is seen as a gift rather than as production of a service whose exchange can be sealed with a payment? And can we see these gifts—gifts by nature, by people who live in ecologically sensitive landscapes, gifts emerging from human-nature relations—as invitation for long-term exchanges in sharing the burden and joy of environmental care?”

Read the essay and then the comments.  Some terrific insights into the pathological monetization of nature.

Originally posted in Bollier.org

Facebook Twitter Google+ Reddit Share

The post On the Dangers of Monetizing Nature appeared first on P2P Foundation.

Reposted from02myEcon-01 02myEcon-01

February 27 2014

Saving Primate Lemurs

Mother lemur and her offspring by Tambako on Flickr CC-BY-2.0

Mother lemur and her offspring by Tambako on Flickr CC-BY-2.0

A group of researchers from Madagascar, Canada, UK and USA published a detailed report in Science that alerts on the possible extinctions of 90% of the known lemurs of Madagascar following the prolonged political crisis in the country.  One of the researcher, Christoph Schwitzer,  explains to the Scientific American the dire consequences of such threat:

lemurs have important ecological and economic roles, and are essential to maintaining Madagascar’s unique forests through seed dispersal and attracting income through ecotourism.

Another researcher, Ian Colquhoun, explains what can be done to protect the unique Malagasy ecosystem in which the lemurs can thrive:

We highlight three key ways to save lemurs: community-based conservation management, the long-term presence of researchers at field sites, and ecotourism.

February 26 2014

Mushrooms, France's Latest Food Trend

Comestible? Pas sûr! licence creative commons Pavlinajane sur Flickr

Edible mushroom? Who knows. Pavlinajane on Flickr CC-BY-2.0

[All links lead to French-language websites unless otherwise noted.]

As a result of both the economic crisis and the need to eat healthier, the worldwide trend of eating local products has also gained ground in France, and at the center of the movement is the mushroom.

A Google blog searched returns 708,000 hits for the word “mushroom”, proof of the blogosphere's fascination for the fungus. Cristau de Hauguerne, an early pioneer of the trend, waxes poetic about her affinity for mushrooms: 

Dès que la neige eut fondu, que la pluie cessa et que le soleil put enfin réchauffer les pentes, les cèpes d'été en surprirent plus d'un dans la hêtraie-sapinière. Quelques sujets en prélude fin juin, mais, loin de faiblir, sans l'ombre d'un orage, l'activité mycélienne s'intensifia graduellement dans le courant du mois de juillet, aestivalis entrainant même pinophilus dans sa fureur de vivre. Après deux années d'indigence, au faîte de l'été, de par leur abondance ces cèpes conférèrent finalement aux sous-bois de hêtres l'allure de la grande pousse automnale. 

As soon as the snow had melted, the rain had stopped and the sun had finally warmed up the slopes, the summer porcini mushroom showing up in the beech-fir forest came as a surprise to many. An early smattering appeared towards the end of June, but, with no hint of a storm in sight, mycelial activity thrived and proliferated uninterruptedly, intensifying gradually throughout July, pinophilus kind bringing the aestivais kind with it in its eagerness to spread out. After two years of acclimatization, at the height of summer the abundance of porcini lent the beech woods the appearance of a full autumn flush.

Although the mushroom has had its longstanding enthusiasts, it has recently acquired a more significant status among the general public: like wine or seasonal fruit and veg, it is highly valued both in the mind and on the plate, associated with a better lifestyle and close proximity to local farmers. 

The most recent edition of the magazine We Demain published on 13 February even argued that “mushrooms are the new elixir of life“.

Local vs. imported

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) licence creative commons Kozumel sur Flickr

Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) photo by Kozumel on Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

However, this movement sometimes contradicts itself. On the one hand, it emphasizes local cultivation, whilst on the other hand, it glamorizes the exotic promise of imported mushrooms. These days, Asian mushrooms, such as shiitake or enokiadorn the shelves of French supermarkets alongside the common or garden variety button mushroom.

Shitake carries all the virtues usually associated with mushrooms: anti-aging and anti-cancer properties, the source of three different B-vitamins, etc. The Réseau Biloba blog expounds on the numerous virtues attributed to this fungus:

Le shiitake est riche en fibres alimentaires; substances qui ne sont pas digérées par l’organisme. La majorité des fibres du shiitake sont sous forme insoluble, fibres qui contribuent particulièrement à maintenir une bonne  fonction intestinale. De plus, une alimentation riche en fibres peut participer à la prévention des maladies cardiovasculaires et du cancer du côlon, ainsi qu’au contrôle du diabète de type 2 et de l’appétit.

Shitake is rich in dietary fibre: substances that are not digested by the organism. The majority of the fibre contained in shitake are insoluble, thus contributing to maintaining a healthy transit. In addition, nutrition that is rich in fibre may help prevent heart disease and cancer of the colon, as well as control of type 2 diabetes and appetite.

So is this mushroom consumption just a fad, a con or a fabulous discovery? Absolutely Green blog published a pertinent post:

A l’origine, on suppose que ce sont les Chinois qui ont découvert ce champignon, il y a plus de 6 000 ans. (…) Et pourtant, ce sont les Japonais (…) qui le diffusèrent à travers l’Asie, à partir du 11ème siècle. Plus qu’un aliment, le shiitake était envisagé comme une sorte de végétal miracle, augmentant la longévité, améliorant vigueur sexuelle et endurance physique. Encore de nos jours, cette réputation lui colle à la peau et fait débat. 

En comparaison, les Occidentaux se sont initiés tardivement à cette culture : il a fallu attendre les années 1970, alors que les Etats-Unis décrétaient un embargo sur les champignons vivants en provenance d’Asie, pour que des producteurs s’y attèlent. Et, encore de nos jours, les Européens restent frileux : quelques initiatives en Hollande et en France se comptent sur les doigts de la main.

It is thought that this mushroom was first discovered in China more than 6,000 years ago. But the Japanese are responsible for its propagation throughout Asia, from the 11th century onward. Far more than a mere aliment, shitake was considered to be a sort of herbal miracle, promoting longevity, improving sexual performance and physical endurance. To this day, it is stuck with this much-debated reputation. 

Westerners, in comparison, were introduced to this culture much later: It wasn't until the 1970s when the United States placed an embargo on live mushrooms imported from Asia, that production really took off. Even today, Europeans are still hesitant and there are only a handful of ventures in Holland and France.

Note that shitake does not come cheap, as demonstrated in the detailed comparative study published by Virginie on the same blog post. Nonetheless, for those who have had the chance to taste it, shitake is particularly tasty, especially if simply sauteed with a splash of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.

The art of picking and preparing mushrooms

Cèpe de Bordeaux

Boletus edulis – Cèpe of Bordeaux. Photo by caitphil on Flickr – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Closer to home, there are many mushrooms within reach for any would-be hunters. Hunting for chanterelles, morels and Bordeaux porcini belongs to the same back-to-earth, back-to-basics movement as the pursuit of shitake's benefits.

The occasionally hunter, however, would be well advised to read up on the subject in order to avoid great or even disastrous inconvenience. According to the Ministry of Health, 546 cases of mushroom poisoning were registered in 2013. Pickers must also beware of the areas they forage in, which are sometimes regulated.

Furthermore, mushrooms are known for their surprising capacity to concentrate environmental pollution, explained in this French-language video: 

Hand-picked wild mushrooms become the centerpiece of a meal for guests, and can be prepared in a large variety of ways, ranging from the very simple to the very complicated. In her blog Papilles et pupilles, Anne shares the quintessence of the Bordeaux porcini:

C’est le roi des champignons locaux, à côté de lui nul n’est à la hauteur. (…) Les coins à champignon comptent parmi les secrets les mieux gardés que l’on ne partage que sur son lit de mort. 

No other mushrooms can compare to this one, it is the king of all local mushrooms. The best mushroom spots are among the most fiercely guarded secrets, shared only on one's deathbed.

Top chefs recommend scores of recipes for wild mushrooms. From cream of morel and white mushrooms to pig trotter pancake with shallots and black truffle, there is something for all tastes, for vegetarians and omnivores alike.

Here is a simple recipe for raw porcini from a famous chef: 

The chef explains the process as follows:  

Separate the heads from the tails of the porcini and chop into fine slices.
Put the chopped porcini in a bowl and season with olive oil.
Add salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, and if you have it, truffle juice. DO NOT use truffle oil.  
Add the basil leaves and stir. The salad should be bright.
Season with salt, pepper and olive oil.

For Cristau de Hueauguerne, one burning question remains, even in the middle of winter:

Alors que nous sommes rendus au milieu d'un hiver méconnaissable, se dessine en sous-sol la future saison des champignons, qui ne connaît pas de trêve, et, quoi que cela s'avère fort difficile et hasardeux, nous sommes déjà nombreux à nous demander quelle sera la teneur du millésime 2014. 

Whilst we are in the middle of a unprecedented winter, the next mushroom season is taking shape in the subsoil, and even though this may seem risky or even rash, many of us are wondering what the 2014 millesime (year of harvest)  has in store.

February 22 2014

Malagasy React to SI Swimming Suit Issue and Model's Take on Madagascar

The 2014 Sports Illustrated Swimming Suit Issue was shot on Nosy Iranja (Iranja Island), Madagascar:

Nosy Iranja is known as the Turtle island for the Hawksbill Turtles came to shore to lay their eggs. It is also known for the spectacular sandbank that bridges the two nearby islands.

Nosy Iranja, Madagascar - Public Domain

Nosy Iranja, Madagascar – Public Domain

Russian Top model Irina Shayk and wife of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo said that she has a special relationship with Madagascar:

When I was a student I did a report on Madagascar, and ever since then it was my biggest dream to go there [..] The (Malagasy) people live and get by every day walking in the roads, living this super simple life, and they're still happy. It is an experience that keeps you humble, puts things in perspective.

Rakotonirina Miaro wonders why the world outside Madagascar seem to appreciate the island's treasures but Malgasy citizens cannot seem to notice [mg]:

Ny olon-kafa maita ny hatsaran'ny Nosin-tsik fa ny tompony jay no tsy mahafatatra fa tsar i Gasikara! Tsara daholo ny mannequin naka sary é!

Foreigners know how beautiful our island is but we, who live here, do not seem to appreciate about our own treasures. Oh yeah, and the swimming suit models were not bad looking either

February 20 2014

“They Fell Our Souls and Memory”: Felling of Trees Draws Anger in Tajikistan

Whenever the authorities in Dushanbe launch a new redevelopment project or simply repair a road, they start by felling trees. Over the last decade, Tajikistan's capital has lost thousands of trees, mainly decades-old sycamores. The big trees once lined Dushanbe's major walkways and roads, providing much-needed shade in the city where summer temperatures often reach 40 degrees Celsius. In an apparent attempt to give the capital a more “modern” look, municipal authorities are replacing the felled sycamores with ornamental trees and small conifers.

The felling of trees has accelerated since mid-2013 as the authorities launched a major redevelopment effort in central Dushanbe. This has angered many social media users who feel that decades-old trees are an important part of the city's outlook and its ecosystem. 

Sobir Kurbanov, one of the individuals affected by the development, wrote [ru] on the Facebook page “Ya Dushanbinec” [I am a Dushanbe Resident] on December 15:

[Не]когда тенистая и красивая, украшенная высокими чинарами улица Чехова полностью уничтожена дорожными строителями. Специальную технику даже завезли. Ни одного дерева не пожалели, все вырубили под молчаливое согласие жителей столицы. Никто даже не пытался выражать несогласие. Когда там закончат однозначно приступят к парку вокруг оперки и вырубят все деревья у прилегающих улиц вокруг оперки, и так далее. А последним аккордом станет уничтожение деревьев по проспекту и улице Рудаки. И тогда превратится наш город в пустыню с широкими новыми улицами. Не дай Аллах мэрии города решить начать ремонт улицы там где вы живете, хотя всех это коснется рано или поздно…

Road workers have fully destroyed the once shady and beautiful Chekhov Street [in central Dushanbe], which was once lined by high sycamore trees. They used the special equipment [to fell the trees]. They didn't pity a single tree; they cut each and every tree with a silent consent of people living in the capital. There was not a single attempt to resist that. When they finish their job [on the Chekhov Street], they will certainly start felling trees in the park surrounding the [Opera and Ballet Theater] and will cut all the trees along streets adjacent to the theater. Their last move will be to fell all trees along the Rudaki avenue. This will turn our city into a desert with new and broad roads. God save you from the city mayor's office deciding to repair a road on your street, although this will affect all of us sooner or later.

Chekhov Street in Dushanbe after all the sycamores that lined it were cut. Image by Shah Mardon, used with permission.

Chekhov Street in Dushanbe after all the sycamores that lined it were cut. Image by Shah Mardon, used with permission.

Chekhov Street in Dushanbe after all the sycamores that lined it were cut. Image by Shah Mardon, used with permission.

Image by Shah Mardon, used with permission.

Artyom Geivandov commented [ru] angrily:

Вот дэбилы! Они хотят превратить Душанбе в пустыню?!

Such idiots! Do they want to turn Dushanbe into a desert?!

Chekhov Street is not the only part of central Dushanbe affected by redevelopment and deforestation. Parvina Ibodova writes [ru] about a similar situation affecting another neighborhood in the city:

…месяц назад к нам (ул.Турсунзаде, напротив роддома №1) пришли ответственные лица Хукумата и сказали, что будут обустраивать наш двор, то есть будут строить спорт и детскую площадку.радости нашей не было предела. но потом, как и водится, пришло огорчение. для того что б построить эти прелести, оказалось нужно было вырубить все наши деревья, чинары, которым по 25-35 лет. мы пытались предотвратить это, ходили и в мэрию города и к председателю нашего района. потом они приходили к нам, ругались, доказывали и т.д. но они говорят одно “Это Генплан и ничего не изменить”… 

мы даже решили отказаться от этих планов у нас до дворе, что б спасти деревья, но…дошло до того, что в минувшую субботу кроме всех чиновников и работников, переворачивающих наш двор с ног на голову, также направил наряд милиции человек 10-12) что мы не мешали рубить деревья…

…about a month ago representatives from the [Dushanbe mayor's office] came to our neighborhood (Tursunzade Street, across the First Maternity Hospital) to tell us that they were going to redevelop our yard and build a new athletic field and a playground there. we were happy. but the happiness was gone soon. it turned out that in order to build all those facilities, they had to fell all our trees, the sycamores that were between 25 and 35 years old. we tried to prevent them from doing so. we went to talk to the mayor's office [and other officials]. then, they came to talk to us, argued with us, tried to prove their point… they all said one thing, “This is part of the General City [Reconstruction] Plan. Nothing can be changed”…

we decided to protect the trees in our yard. but last Saturday, in addition to all the officials and workers rebuilding our yard, they sent a group of police officers (10 to 12 persons) to prevent us from interfering with the felling of trees… 

Image by Parvina Ibodova, used with permission.

Sycamores cut on Tursunzade Street in Dushanbe. Image by Parvina Ibodova, used with permission.

Image by Parvina Ibodova, used with permission.

Image by Parvina Ibodova, used with permission.

Contributing to the discussion on Facebook, Said Negmatulloyev suggested [ru] a way to stop the felling of trees:

Если посадить один саженец, то будет больше на одно дерево. 
Если посадить одного лесоруба, рубящего незаконно, то будет больше на сотню деревьев. 
А если посадить одного чиновника, позволяющего рубить деревья незаконно — будет больше на тысячи деревьев. 
Сажайте правильно!

If you plant one sapling tree, the number of trees in the world will increase by one.
If you put in jail one lumberjack cutting trees illegally, the number of trees will increase by one hundred.
And if you put in jail one official who allows others to cut trees illegally, the number of trees will increase by thousands.
Plant [put in jail] the right way!

[Note: word play here; Russian word "sazhat'" means both "to plant" and "to put in jail"]

Russian Chronicles of Tajikistan blog suggests [ru] that the felling of trees is part of a much broader project by the authorities aimed at remodeling the country and its citizenry:

А ведь это не просто преображение одной отдельной улицы. Посмотрите на ландшафт Душанбе в общем, на то, как он изменился за последнее десятилетие. Город лишили его гордости – тысяч чинар, которые когда-то дарили душанбинцам летнюю прохладу и свежий воздух.

Что у нас остается? Остается уродливый город, ни чем не отличающийся от других городов бывшего Советского Союза. Да, есть много новых помпезных зданий, наляпанных китайцами многоэтажек – но все это не красит город. Старые здания, благодаря которым Душанбе был уютным местом, тоже под снос. В завершение ко всему переименовали все улицы…

Новые памятники, новые названия, безликая архитектура…

This is not just a transformation of a single street. Look at the landscape of Dushanbe and the way it has changed over the last decade. The city has been deprived of its pride, thousands of sycamore trees that used to provide the residents of Dushanbe with fresh air and summer shade.

What do we have left? We have an ugly city that is no different from other cities of the former Soviet Union. Yes, there are many new and pompous buildings, multi-storey houses [built] by the Chinese – but these do not adorn the city. The old buildings that made Dushanbe such a cozy place are also being demolished. On top of this, they have renamed all the streets…

New monuments, new names, faceless architecture…

The blog adds [ru]:

Они не просто вырубают чинары. Они не просто меняют ландшафт города. Они лишают Душанбе его души. Они хотят поменять нас, сделать из нас других людей, с другими идеями и ценностями. Они лепят из нас, как из глины, новых людей нового Таджикистана. А все, что осталось от того Таджикистана, который мы знали и любили, они выжигают каленым железом.

Вырубая чинары, они вырубают наши души и память. Они вырубают старый добрый Таджикистан.

They do not just fell the sycamores. They do not just alter the city's landscape. They deprive Dushanbe of its soul. They want to change us, turn us into a different kind of people, with a different set of ideas and values. They are molding us, as if we were clay, into a new people of a new Tajikistan. And they root out mercilessly all that is left from the Tajikistan we used to know and love.

By felling sycamore trees, they fell our souls and memory. They fell the good old Tajikistan.

February 19 2014

Human Waste Scavenging a Reality in India Despite Sanitation Laws

Manual scavenging is illegal in India. Yet, the practice continues to exist in pockets. Image courtesy UNICEF India

Manual scavenging is illegal in India but the practice continues to exist. This lady in Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh is carrying human waste for disposal. Image courtesy UNICEF India

Manual scavenging, or the manual removal of human waste from non-flush toilets, continues to exist in pockets of India despite the Indian government's stringent laws agaisnt it [pdf]. A team of bloggers, including a member of Global Voices, visited a few villages in the Moradabad district of Uttar Pradesh, India and learned more about this continuing illegal and dehumanizing practice.

The Indian government in partnership with UNICEF India has been actively pushing an ambitious, community-led total sanitation program – the Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA), which aims to end open defecation by 2017. An earlier Global Voices post reported how UNICEF India's #poo2loo campaign has been using innovative methods to engage the urban populace and create awareness about the issue of open defecation.

However, apart from influencing cultural norms to end open defecation and building of toilet infrastructure across the country, the NBA program also deals with hygienic methods of solid and liquid waste disposal. And it is in this context that the blogger team learned how traditional “dry toilets” were unhygienic. Plus, given that these areas lacked proper sewage system for waste disposal, these toilets encouraged the illegal waste disposal method – manual scavenging.

A traditional dry toilet in a village of Uttar Pradesh, India, that requires manual scavenging to clean. Image by author

A dry toilet in a village of Uttar Pradesh, India, that needs manual scavengers to clean. Image by Aparna Ray.

The district panchayat officer of Moradabad district in Uttar Pradesh India explained why, according to him, dry toilets (toilets without a flush or wash-away system) were worse than open defecation. He pointed out that open defecation in villages generally took place in open fields and wooded areas away from human habitation, but in traditional dry toilets the waste lays open within the confines of the home, spreading diseases faster within the community (as the waste attracts flies, which then sit on foodstuffs, etc.).

In fact, this was one of the reasons that many families preferred not to have a toilet within the house. Plus, these kinds of dry toilets also require manual scavengers for waste disposal, a job that is “without dignity and illegal”.

Mayank Jain from Youth Ki Awaaz was one of the bloggers on the field visit. He wrote about his experiences:

dry toilet is probably the gravest thing I have encountered in my life. Those who feel shy or don’t want to go out choose this means where they leave their fecal waste in one corner of the house and in the morning, a human scavenger comes to clean it and carries the whole waste on their head to dump it anywhere away from their home. This is done in return for a sum of just 30 rupees for 6 months! This is an inhuman crime being carried out all over the villages and it is a massive source of diseases and health issues. People don’t realize how unhygienic it is to live with their own waste in the house and those who carry on their heads find themselves perpetually ill with diarrhea or poisoning and they still choose to do it for that extra money

Mayank further commented:

The story gets worse once you talk to them about their children and you discover this profession gives birth to huge discrimination and people don’t dare touch them or talk to them nicely because of what they do in the morning. Story of human scavengers brings to light the vicious cycle of poverty and misery but the web is intermingled with shades of caste-ism, religious sentiments, traditions and cultural hierarchies that have grown to this level now.

It is a crime as per Indian law and the women who do it ran away when we tried to talk to them thinking they will be caught or punished and I could only wonder where this country has reached so far.

Three scavenger ladies

Three scavenger women in a village of Uttar Pradesh, India, huddled together, a little away from the rest of the villagers. Image by Aparna Ray

Bloggers Ajay Kapoor from Halabol and Sonal Kapoor from the NGO Protsahan have also blogged and tweeted about what they learned from these manual scavenging women, whom they met on the field trip.

Ajay blogged:

Scavengers from a village. No dignity, no respect and worst of all they get pennies for this humiliating work and some stale food.

And Sonal (@ArtForCause) tweeted:

The women complained that they were ill much of the time but when it was pointed out that it was because of the work they did, they said that they could see no other viable and respectable alternative open to them.

The Indian government, along with organizations such as Sulabh International which are working in the field of sanitation are pushing for societal change a) by trying to get people to convert their traditional dry toilets to a more hygienic option that does away with the need for daily scavenging and b) trying to create alternative livelihoods for these scavengers.

Conversion of traditional dry toilets

The government along with its sanitation partners is pushing for conversion of these unhygienic dry toilets into flush toilets. However, keeping in mind the lack of proper sewerage systems as well as the impracticality of advocating expensive flush systems, especially in poorer or rural areas, they are opting for technologies such as the self-composting, twin-pit pour flush system.

A dry toilet being converted into a twin pit pour flush system. Images courtesy UNICEF India

A dry toilet being converted into a twin-pit pour flush system. Images courtesy UNICEF India

This toilet technology involves building a toilet which is connected to two pits, any one of which is used at a time. Water-flushed waste collects in a pit and when it is filled, the other one is used. The waste gets converted into compost, which can then be used as manure.

Other innovative, alternative sanitation systems are also being explored across India, for example,this ecosan squat toilet system, supported by UNICEF.

A more contemporary format of a waterless flush system was also recently exhibited in India.

Rehabilitating manual scavengers

As more toilets get converted and as opportunities are created for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers by providing them alternative livelihoods, there is cause for hope, though a lot still remains to be done in this area. Be it through the government sponsored “100 days guaranteed work” scheme or self-employment schemes or even NGO-led training and employment generating initiatives, we hope that the manual scavenging community will get reinstated in the mainstream society and be able to live with dignity and dream of a better future for themselves as well as their children.

In this YouTube video, Sulabh International's Dr. Bindeshwar Pathak talks about his organization's initiatives in this direction, saying that the resulting glimmer of change is a “candle in the darkness, a beginning of the beginning”.

In the next post in the series, we will look at how some brave “toilet warriors” are working within their communities to bring about change in attitudes to scavenging, sanitation and hygiene.

China: A Survey of City Pollution

Greenpeace has released its 2013 survey on air pollution in China. Dan Harris suggested foreign corporates should consider the index before picking their offices’ locations. The summary of the Greenpeace report in English can be found in China Hush.

February 18 2014

Adapting to Extreme Climate Change in Mali and Madagascar

Forest in the Kayes Region in Mali CC-NC-2.0

Forest in the Kayes region of Mali CC-NC-2.0

Mali and Madagascar have faced many similar challenges over the past five years. Political turmoil punctuated by coup d'états that saw the removal of their president-elects before the end of their terms. As a consequence, both economies had steep dives in terms of GDP. Today, Madagascar and Mali are both trying to rebuild their broken political systems via newly elected executive branches.

A lesser known challenge that both countries face is their struggle against extreme climate change. Fragile countries are often more vulnerable to extreme weather, but that adage could not be more evident than in the recent evolution of the ecosystem in Madagascar and Mali.

An undeniable impact

In Mali, the forest is slowly given way to the Sahara desert in the north. The Kayes region is symptomatic of the seemingly unstoppable progression of the desert in a region that used to host a buoyant forest and is now home to vast areas of sands and rocks.

Adrien de Chaisemartin and his colleagues from the McKinsey's Johannesburg office reported on the impact of climate change in the Malian region:

Mali is a mostly dry nation, subject to frequent droughts. Increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall tell of a shift in climate zones as the desert moves south over productive land. In these regions, farmers dependent on agriculture and livestock already face trying periods of drought and have few options to overcome them. Many are moving to the cities, others to the country’s less arid south.

Kayes region  in Mali at the border with Senegal via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Kayes region in Mali at the border with Senegal via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Here is how they assess the current situation and the potential economic loss for the country:

The climate zone shift—the combined effect of rising average temperatures and declining average rainfall—has already pushed the country’s agroecological zones to the south over the past 50 years, with average rainfall down by about 200 millimeters and average temperatures up by 0.5°C over the same period. [..] The pessimistic high-change scenario could involve losses of about $300 million annually (some 15 percent of the value of agriculture and livestock); the optimistic scenario, losses of $120 million annually (6 percent)

In Madagascar, the impact of climate change was even more dramatic. Following two consecutive cyclones (Giovanna in 2012 and Haruna in 2013) that made landfall on the island and displaced at least 100,000 people, the southern region was plagued by a locust invasion. How those events are related is explained by Emmanuel Perrin on maxisciences [fr]:

Le cyclone Haruna a touché l’île de Madagascar. Or, son passage a créé les conditions d'humidité favorables à la prolifération de criquets migrateurs. Les autorités n’ont pas réagi à temps et, aujourd’hui, leur population atteint 500 milliards d’individus, estime une récente mission de comptage.

Cyclone Haruna hit the island of Madagascar and its landfall has created the humid conditions that favors the massive proliferation of locusts. The authorities did not react in time, and today their population reached 500 billion in the most recent estimates.

Locust invasion in down town Fianaratsoa, Madagascar

Locust invasion in downtown Fianaratsoa, Madagascar

The World Food Programme states that 60 percent of rice production will be affected by the locust invasion. Cyclone Haruna's direct impact was also dramatically felt by southern farmers as 6,351 hectares of their crop fields were flooded. Raw footage of the floods can be seen in this video from YouTube user ongbelavenir:

How to adapt

So what can local population do to withstand the climate assault on their way of life? Here are a few ideas by Michael Kleine and his fellow scientists or researchers from the International Union of Forest Research Organizations solutions (IUFRO):

New modes of governance should enhance effective stakeholder and community participation, transparent and accountable decision-making, and the equitable sharing of benefits. And strategies for adapting forests to climate change must be coordinated with those of other sectors and integrated into national and regional development programmes and strategies.

In the field, new strategies are dependent on the local context and the type of activities in the region. For instance, declining crop yields can be countered with the following measures: increase crop diversification and plant early maturing crop varieties such as the NERICA rice variety. 

Dr. Balgis Osman Elasha emphasized the importance of grasping the local context and gaining buy-ins from community leaders to implement the new measures:

The same policy could yield contrasting results ,for different sectors or different activities in the same sector, e.g. removing subsides on inputs, from agriculture produced positive impact on traditional rain fed sector (using minimum inputs), and negative impacts on mechanized irrigated agriculture (using intensive inputs) [..] Community Leaders are key players in the policy process , they possess a wealth of indigenous knowledge regarding the wise use and conservation of natural resources, moreover, customary rules and orders issued by them , are considered sacred by their local community. 

February 17 2014

The Millenium Development Goal for Safe Water Is Still Beyond Reach for Many African Countries

Point d'eau du village de Mwamanongu, en Tanzanie. CC-BY-2.0

Water source in Mwamanongu, Tanzania. CC-BY-2.0

Virgil HOUESSOU, a Benin-based reporter for the African association for clean water,  is pessimistic about the Millenium Development Goal with respect to safe water. He writes  on the collective blog Wash Journalists [fr]: 

A quelques mois de l’échéance de la réalisation des OMD [Objectifs du millénaire pour le développement],  beaucoup de défis restent à relever dans le secteur de l’eau et de l’assainissement. De nombreux pays africains trainent encore le pas et ne sont pas sûrs de les atteindre

A few months removed from the deadline for reaching the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals], many challenges remain in the area of ​​water and sanitation. Many African countries have yet to fully get going on this topic and therefore are quite unsure of reaching their objectives.

February 16 2014

China Central TV Blames Beijing Government for Air Pollution

Beijing has reached Red Alert Levels of Smog during the past few days. China's state media CCTV wrote some comments on Sina Weibo on Feb 15, 2014, blaming Beijing government's impotency:

连续几天的沉默,说明了一个问题,严重雾霾天气多了,民众自然就会麻木,社会也会熟视无睹,但央视财经提醒的是,政府不能当瞎子,它必须要肩负起自己的责任,守土要有责,莫无知!无畏!无为!所以,央视财经大声的问一句,这里,还有人管雾霾吗?

Several days of silence indicates one problem: with constant smog, people will become numb, the society will turn a blind eye, but the government cannot be blind, it must shoulder its responsibilities, No excuse for ignorance, fearlessness or inaction! So, CCTV Financial channel is asking, is there anyone who's going to solve the smog problem?

After a few hours, users were unable to comment or repost the post.

According to an “official Chinese report,” rampant air pollution in Beijing has rendered the city as “barely suitable” for living.

[Photos]: Birds Of Bangladesh

A Cuckoo (Kokil in Bangla) sits on branch of a tree and eats fruit. Dhaka, Bangladesh. Image by Mehedi Hasan. Copyright Demotix (14/2/2014)

A Cuckoo (Kokil in Bangla) sits on branch of a tree and eats fruit. Dhaka, Bangladesh. Image by Mehedi Hasan. Copyright Demotix (14/2/2014)

For a foreigner it’s hard to identify birds in Bangladesh as local books often have the wrong names in English, and Western books don’t have the Bangla names. The Face of Bangla blog and Jacob and Sanna's blog tried to help by posting popular birds’ pictures with both Bangla and English names.

February 14 2014

Ending Illegal Logging and Launching Forest Carbon Credits in Madagascar

 Illegally logged rosewood from Masoala and Marojejy in Antalaha, Madagascar via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

Illegally logged rosewood from Masoala and Marojejy in Antalaha, Madagascar via wikipedia CC-BY-2.0

The new administration in Madagascar is seemingly making a concerted effort to curb down deforestation in Madagascar. First, new president Hery Rajaonarimampianina has made ending illegal logging of Madagascar rosewood a priority at his first executive meeting[fr]. Second, the Wildlife Conservation Society announced that the Government of Madagascar has approved carbon sales with Microsoft and its carbon offset partner, The CarbonNeutral Company, and Zoo Zurich. The funds from carbon sales will be used by Makira REDD+ Project for conservation, capacity building, and enforcement activities related to conservation of Madagascar's rainforest. It is yet to be seen whether these measures will be implemented in the field. 

Philippine Ocean Park Criticized for Using Dolphin in Marriage Proposal

Romantic or cruel? A controversial marriage proposal in the Ocean Adventure park in Subic

Romantic or cruel? A controversial marriage proposal in the Ocean Adventure park in Subic

A marriage proposal became controversial in the Philippines after it was done by using a dolphin as a signboard. The proposal was made in the facility of Ocean Adventure Subic Bay. The photos of the event went viral which triggered a maelstrom of reaction. Later, the photos were removed from the Facebook page of the theme park.

But Earth Island Institute was able to make screenshots of the controversial proposal and shared them online. The group is urging a boycott of the theme park aside from calling for the release of all captive dolphins.

In response, Ocean Adventure Subic Bay claimed that it used zinc oxide to write the marriage proposal on the back of the dolphin which the company said is a safe material and sun protection applicable for dolphin.

But Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines said this is no excuse to ‘vandalize’ an animal:

Vandalizing an animal has no place in conservation.

Zinc oxide is used to prevent sunburn and skin irritation in stranded cetaceans, meaning it is used as a medical aid to prevent further injury to the animal in distress

Angela Colmenares-Sabino questions the right of the theme park to exist as an education and conservation facility:

It doesn't matter what material was used to write on the dolphin's belly. The very fact that they're diminishing the important ecological role of dolphins into this clearly states that Ocean Adventure, claiming to be a facility for education and conservation, is not for education and conservation at all but a commercial cruel facility.

Patricia Sorongon-Yap thinks the couple should not be blamed:

Some got mad at the couple, and some doesn't understand why WE are against this idea for a proposal. For me, it's actually not the couples fault. A lot of people are unaware of the simple fact that dolphins are NOT fish, let alone that dolphins or any other kind of wildlife animal are not supposed to be written on especially for commercial purposes (regardless of the material used).

The management of Ocean Adventure assured the public that it used a safe material when it wrote the marriage proposal on the dolphin.

The management of Ocean Adventure assured the public that it used a safe material when it wrote the marriage proposal on the dolphin.

Aldwin M. Arcena weighs both sides of the issue:

I mean what's the worse that's gonna happen to the dolphin? Although it could count into more negative sides if that paint is somewhat poisonous or something. It's just a marked dolphin, nothing to get so angry about

Michael Paolo Tiglao urges commenters to show more anger at people who kill dolphins:

…why are you ranting about this stupid paint, you should share and post how certain asian countries kill dolphins so just to get their soup or dumpling or sometn', why don't we all do something about that, and just so you know thats a park and they care for their animals, that paint will be cleaned after. the dolphin is still alive and no blood is spilled., just my two cents on how negative people can be. have a good day

February 13 2014

Argentina's Polar Bear ‘Arturo’ Will Stay at the Mendoza Zoo

Imagen de la pagina de Facebook OSO POLAR Arturo

Image from the Facebook page OSO POLAR Arturo (Arturo the POLAR BEAR). Text: “I'm a polar bear – what part of polar don't you understand?”

A group of medical specialists determined that Arturo the bear, the only polar bear in captivity in Argentina, should stay in Mendoza instead of being transferred to Canada, after an intense heat wave put his health at risk.

The blog Un Mundo en Paz (A World of Peace) [es] explains:

Por unanimidad, los especialistas decidieron que el oso Arturo se quede en Mendoza. Analizaron que por su edad, 23 años, no puede ser sometido a una serie [de] análisis necesarios para el traslado y en Canadá no podría recibirlo porque el animal no cumple con los requisitos que exige el protocolo de ese país.

Unanimously, the specialists decided that Arturo the bear would stay in Mendoza. They determined that because of his age, 23, he could not be submitted to the series [of] analyses needed for the move, and in Canada he would not be received because he does not meet the requirements of the country's protocol.

In January of 2014, due to the demands and pleas made by different groups that the bear be put in a place more suitable for his species, the governor of the city of Mendoza, Francisco Pérez (@PacoPerez), announced from his Twitter account that the bear was being evaluated physically to determine the possibility of eventually moving him to Canada:

Let it be know that our Government, if the medical board decides it is best, will approve and support the decision to move Arturo the bear.

In February, a medical board made up of local, national and foreign veterinarians will evaluate the health of Arturo the bear.

This board will determine whether Arturo is in good condition to deal with a move, being that the main goal is to safeguard his health.

If the medical board approves it, and Arturo the bear can be moved, two Canadian entities are interested in receiving him.

This news brought about a lot of happiness and gratitude towards the governor, and the community was waiting for the medical board to arrive on February 7th to do the evaluation.

As one might expect, the news that the bear will stay in Mendoza has generated reactions from those who were waiting for the results. On Twitter, Argentines are commenting on the case under the hashtag #OsoArturo.

For their part, the Association of Civil Servants and Lawyers for the Rights of Animals (AFADA) [es] presented a statement [es] announcing the request for a habeas corpus for the polar bear's illegal loss of liberty. 

The Facebook page Ecológicos Unidos [es], calls for continuing to fight [es] for the polar bear:

MENSAJE URGENTE A AQUELLAS PERSONAS QUE TIENEN GANAS DE AYUDAR AL OSO POLAR ARTURO Y TIENE IDEAS NUEVAS PARA LOGRAR SU TRASLADO 

Nosotros probamos con todo y no lo logramos … pero no quiere decir que alguien más preparado y con más herramientas no pueda hacerlo ! 

NO DISCUTAN CON NOSOTROS , HÁGANLO URGENTE ! ARTURO NO TIENE TIEMPO ! 

URGENT MESSAGE TO THOSE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO HELP ARTURO THE POLAR BEAR AND HAVE NEW IDEAS FOR MOVING HIM

We tried everything and we weren't successful … but that doesn't mean that someone more prepared and with more tools can't do it!

DON'T ARGUE WITH US, DO IT QUICKLY! ARTURO DOESN'T HAVE TIME! 

The page OSO POLAR Arturo [es] does the same, and reports [es] that the result is “the worst news” they could have imagined.

Imagen de la página en Facebook OSO POLAR Arturo

Image from the Facebook page OSO POLAR Arturo (Arturo the POLAR BEAR)

The AFP [es] news agency shared a video of the news, showing the protesters awaiting the result:

Meanwhile, Greenpeace Argentina [es] calls for joining the fight [es] to improve the conditions in the enclosure where Arturo is now. 

February 12 2014

Controversial Sindh Festival Accused of Risking Ancient Ruins for Flashy Kickoff

Fireworks during the opening ceremony of Sindh Festival held in Moen Jo Daro. Image by Jamal Dawoodpoto. Copyright Demotix (3/2/2014)

Fireworks during the opening ceremony of Sindh Festival held in Moen Jo Daro. Image by Jamal Dawoodpoto. Copyright Demotix (3/2/2014)

The people of Sindh province in the south of Pakistan, the site of one of the oldest civilizations in the world, are currently celebrating a festival to pay tribute to their rich and vast cultural heritage. The brainchild of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the festival aims to revive the history of Sindh, his home province, with a 15-day celebration in various cities showcasing local art, music, sport and more.  However, critics accused him of playing the Sindh card by exploiting the peace loving innocent Sindhi people.

If that was not enough, before the celebrations had even begun, the festival drew ire from some for its decision to hold the theatrical opening ceremony at the ancient ruins of Mohenjo-daro.

Mohenjo-daro, an UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the earliest urban settlements in the world, dating back to 2600 BCE. A stage and other event infrastructure was built nearby the delicate ruins for the opening ceremony of 1 February 2014, to which about 400 or more dignitaries were invited. The federal government and even some leading archaeologists did not give the green light for holding the festival there. However, the organizers of the event and the PPP government in Sindh assured that the ceremony was being planned with painstaking attention to details, ensuring that the ruins were not threatened.

Pakistani writer Bina Shah wrote on her blog that she wasn't convinced:

So the Sindh Festival opened last night at Mohenjodaro, but it didn't remain untouched by controversy: the accusation that the ruins were being damaged by preparations for the festival, including the building of a stage, construction of steel pillars, and other things that shouldn't be happening on or around delicate ruins from a five-thousand year old civilisation. In addition, the vibrations by the construction and the loudspeakers during the concert, and the bright spotlights would possibly degrade the site even further. Furore erupted on social media, petitions were signed, and letters written. The Festival went ahead as planned and by all accounts was successful, but it's still a sensitive subject as we wait to assess the impact of the concert on the site post-event.

Labourers prepare for the Sindh Festival at Moen Jo Daro (Mound of Dead), the location of the remains of an ancient Indus Valley civilization. Image by Jamal Dawoodpoto. Copyright Demotix (

Labourers prepare for the Sindh Festival at Moenjo-daro (Mound of the Dead), the location of the remains of an ancient Indus Valley civilisation. Image by Jamal Dawoodpoto. Copyright Demotix (3/2/2014)

Local journalist and environmental activist Amar Guriro's photographs of the stage being constructed at the ruins first drew the attention of many to the choice of venue when they viral on social media. Debates emerged over the use of wooden and steel scaffolding over and near the ruins, heavy spotlights and lasers for a light show, and sound systems for the ceremony that could possibly damage the area.

While commenting on Amar Guriro's photographs, Shah added on her blog

I was very concerned when I saw the photographs and I retweeted them so that people might pay attention to the issue. The Festival organisers responded by claiming they'd had archeological experts both local and foreign approve the plans and help build the site in a safe way.

Journalist Mohammad Malick wanted someone to inform Bilawal Bhutto Zardari about the importance of the ancient city: 

Senior Editor of The News Talat Aslam tweeted his thoughts about the opening ceremony: 

Environmental communicator and cricket journalist Afia Salam was also against the idea:   

The official Twitter handle for the Sindh Festival was quick to clarify their position:

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari defended the choice: 

The ruins of Mohenjodaro

According to UNESCO, Mohenjodaro is the best-preserved urban ruin on the Indian subcontinent. The ruins, unearthed by a British archaeologist Sir John Marshall in 1922, are already threatened by harsh climatic conditions, floods and saline action of the Indus River water. 

Ever since the news broke on social media, protests and online petitions signed against the opening ceremony at the Mohenjodaro ruins marred the main event. According to a news report published in Dawn Newspaper, UNESCO was unhappy with the idea of holding an event at the ruins. The report said that a week before the festival at Moenjodaro, the director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites declared the opening ceremony as an “improper” activity.

But here is what the organizers had to say after the opening ceremony of the Sindh Festival at Mohenjodaro:

An “Increasingly Uncertain” Future for Central Asia's Fergana Valley

On the Caravanistan blog, Cycloscope writes about radioactive landfill sites in the Fergana Valley, a region “absurdly divided between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan”:

Unaware of the dangers of radioactivity, the locals take the equipment in the old abandoned mines and sell them as scrap, risking not only their own lives but also the spread of radioactivity. A further problem is the use of rock from landfills as a building material for houses and roads.

The threat coming from radioactive waste is aggravated by unsettled borders, water scarcity, and a history of ethnic riots, making the future of the region “increasingly uncertain”.

VIDEOS: Argentina's Melting Pot of Culinary Traditions

[All links lead to Spanish-language sites unless otherwise noted.]

The diverse migratory flows that have reached Argentina from the 1880′s and until now contributed to the richness and variety of the typical [en] cuisine in the country.

The various ‘ferias de colectividades’ (cultural fairs) that take place throughout Argentina are good illustrations of this. In these fairs we can witness not only a display of each community's traditions, folkloric dances, beauty pageants and souvenirs but also their traditional dishes. For instance, during the Fiesta de Colectividades in the city of Rosario that takes place every year, a varied menu is offered representing the multiple communities (Latin, European and Asian) that compose the Argentinian society. In this video, we can see how typical Paraguayan food is prepared and sold during that same fair in Rosario.


On Facebook, the page Encuentro Anual de Colectividades (Annual Gathering of Communities) shows some dishes that will be sold during the 2014 program in the city of Alta Gracia [es]. The city, located in the Córdoba province, is quite famous because it is where the revolutionary Che Guevara [en] lived for 12 years.

Imagen de la página de facebook Encuentro Anual de Colectividades

Photo posted on the Facebook Page of the Encuentro Anual de Colectividades event

Every September, the Misiones province [en] also celebrates its traditional Fiesta Nacional del Inmigrante (National Feast of the Immigrant). For the occasion, the Polish community, among other migrant groups, cooks Kursak Polski na Royezaj, better known as Polish chicken.

Ingredientes
1 pollo
1 cebolla grande
2 ajo puerro
1 morrón rojo mediano
1 morrón verde mediano
200 gramos crema de leche
200 gramos champiñones
sal y pimienta

Preparación de la salsa
Picar la cebolla bien fina, rehogar con una cucharada de aceite, agregar los morrones cortados en daditos, agregar el ajo puerro picado muy fino. Revolver muy bien, agregar crema de leche y los champignones.
Cocinar durante cinco minutos, agregar sal y pimienta a gusto.
Optativo nuez moscada.
Si queda muy espesa la salsa agregar leche para suavizar. Servir acompañado con pollo a la parrilla o al horno

Ingredients

1 Chicken

1 Large Onion

2 Leeks

1 Medium Red Pepper

1 Medium Green Pepper

200 g. Cream

200 g. Mushrooms

Salt and Pepper

Preparation of the sauce

Chop the onions very finely. Fry lightly with one tbsp of oil. Add the peppers after they've been diced followed by the leeks finely cut. Stir well. Add the cream and mushrooms.

Cook for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add some nutmeg if you wish. If sauce gets too thick, add some milk. Serve with grilled or roast chicken.

In addition there are community-specific celebrations, such as the one by the Volga Germans [en], who settled mostly in the province of Entre Ríos. The Volga Germans lived in the region of southeastern European Russia, close to the Volga river [en]. They came to Argentina in 1878 and preserved their traditions as well as their language. Cuisine is naturally at the heart of these traditions. This video produced by the Asociación Argentina de Descendientes de Alemanes del Volga (Argentinian Association of the Volga Germans Descendants) demonstrates how to prepare a Kreppel:


There also many restaurants serving foreign food. The Croatian community in Argentina, for instance, keeps its culinary traditions with restaurants like Dobar Tek, offering a rich Croatian menu. This video shows the “art” of preparing an apple strudel.


The Armenian community is also quite influential in Argentina. Romina Boyadjian suggests the 5 best dishes in Armenian cuisine while pointing out that the Community in the diaspora has reinvented the typical dishes:

Algo curioso es que la comida armenia que se come en Argentina es muy distinta a la que se consume en Armenia. Esto tiene que ver con las reinvenciones que hacen los diferentes pueblos al partir de su tierra natal, las costumbres que traen consigo y lo que termina siendo valorado en la nueva comunidad. Hay comidas que acá se consideran típicas y que allá apenas se conocen.

It's quite intriguing that the Armenian cuisine we eat in Argentina is quite different from the one actually consumed in Armenia. This has to do with the reinventions done by the different populations based on their homeland, the traditions that they bring and what ends up being valued in the new community.  Some dishes are considered traditional yet they are barely known there (in Armenia).

One of the cities symbolizing the Jewish immigration to Argentina is Moisés Ville [en], established by the first immigrants who reached the country. On the YouTube account of the initiative Señal Santa Fe we can see the city and get to know how traditions are preserved through well-known dishes such as the strudel or the Knish [en] among others:


But which dish was quickly adopted by immigrants upon their arrival to the country? The asado [en] without any doubt, especially because the majority of the newcomers were peasants and meat was quite cheap. The Club Argentino de Asadores a la Estaca (Argetinian Club of Rotisseurs) has some photos for you to enjoy.

Asado a la Estaca - Imagen. Laura Schneider

Asado – Photo by Laura Schneider

February 11 2014

Remembering Dr Alison Jolly, Lemurs of Madagascar Expert

Dr. Alison Jolly, Primatologist  1937-2014- Public Domain

Dr. Alison Jolly, Primatologist 1937-2014- Public Domain

After leading a distinguished career as a primatologist at the Berenty Reserve of Madagascar, Dr. Alison Jolly has died at home in Lewes, East Sussex, aged 76. Dr. Jolly, a PhD researcher from Yale, made her name as the first scientist to do an in-depth account of the behaviour of the ring-tailed lemur, L. catta, beginning field work in 1962. David Attenborough recently wrote : ‘not only they but the people and land of Madagascar captured her heart’. 

February 09 2014

India's Solar Vision Promises Clean Energy And Happy Farmers

Solar array pattern captured at Auroville, Pondicherry, India. Image from Flickr by Amaresh Sundaram Kuppuswamy. CC BY

Array of solar panels at Auroville, Pondicherry, India. Image from Flickr by Amaresh Sundaram Kuppuswamy. CC BY-NC-SA

Around 628 million people around the world do not have access to electricity and 290 million of them are from rural India. Many Indian farmers have to rely on archaic power grids and fossil fuels to run water pumps for their irrigation.

The Indian government is aiming to replace 26 million diesel-powered groundwater pumps with more efficient solar-powered irrigation models. This will save about six billion US dollars a year in electricity and diesel subsidies for the country. This will also help tackle the rising demand for coal as two-thirds of the country's electricity is generated by coal. Additionally crowd-sourcing of unused solar power will also add a lot of energy to the national grid.

India nearly doubled its solar capacity in 2013 to a cumulative 2.18 gigawatts of power. The country plans to install 10 GW of solar plants by 2017 and 20 GW by 2022, according to the the second phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM), India’s flagship solar policy. India is also considering to apply to the World Bank for a 500-million-US-dollar solar loan to build the world's largest solar power plant (4GW) in Sambhar in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

Yadav K writes in Indian Public Sector blog details about the 4GW power plant in Sambhar:

The project will spread across 19,000 acres at Sambhar in Rajasthan and will entail an investment of Rs 7,500 crore in the first phase. [..] The solar PV (photo-voltaic) power plant will use PV modules based on crystalline silicon technology and with an estimated life of 25 years, the solar plant can supply 6,400 million units of energy per year. It eco-friendly project will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by over 4 million tonnes per year.

Katie Fehrenbacher writes in technology blog Gigaom:

As more devices become connected to networks and the Internet — here comes the Internet of Things — more and more of them will seek to have their own power source, and currently solar power is one of the cheapest and most mobile forms of distributed energy available. [..]

If India does reach these numbers of solar-powered water pumps, it would be the largest deployment of this technology in a single country. Reducing the grid electricity usage, and the use of expensive diesel, will not only lower carbon emissions, but it could also help the power grid operators better run their networks and reduce the power costs for the farmers.

Here are more reactions on Twitter:

However, the rapid development requires industrial production of Solar plants which may create new bio-hazard:

Blogger & Solar Energy expert Ritesh Pothan thinks that there are a number of issues that must be resolved if 2014 is to see India make any progress towards its solar ambitions.

More info on India's solar developments can be found in Renewable Energy India and Solar Power India Facebook pages.

February 05 2014

Caribbean Diaspora Blogger Makes Meatless Monday Meaningful

Trinidadian diaspora blogger Afrobella usually blogs about all things glamourous – fashion, beauty, fitness – but occasionally, she will wax poetic about food, which, of course, has a glamour of its own. Her culinary interests lie Caribbean food, usually, and the challenges she faces finding the right West Indian ingredients while living in a North American metropolis. She manages, though, and today she shares her recipe for a Rainbow Pizza recipe that does something extraordinary, at least in Caribbean menu terms: It offers a tasty meal – without meat – which is perhaps the most loved staple of West Indian diets.

Her post begins by acknowledging the genesis of the Meatless Monday concept:

[It] dates back to conservation efforts during World War 1, but regained popularity in the last decade as a public health awareness initiative. The idea behind it is to improve public health by going meatless once a week, to reduce risks of cancer, heart disease and diabetes while reducing your carbon footprint and improving the environment.

She continues:

I love the idea, and have been wanting to eat less meat and more veggies for a while. My husband is totally not cool with it and wants to eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. It makes things challenging for me. It means that I have to try that much harder to create something delicious and healthy that we’ll both enjoy.

Afrobella succeeds, though – after checking out a few recipes on Pininterest, she gives the pizza dish her own special flair by “up[ping] the ante and add[ing] some roasted veggies”:

When I shared the photo on my Instagram and Facebook pages, the response was huge! Everyone’s asking me for the recipe. And it’s SO EASY. Like, stupid easy. Let me share it with you!

Rainbow Pizza, a la Afrobella.

Rainbow Pizza, a la Afrobella.

You can check out the recipe and follow the method here. Then, add the veggie ingredients in the sequence of rainbow colours:

Decorate in rainbow stripes! Like I said, I used the following, in order from right to left – mushrooms, broccoli, yellow bell pepper, red bell pepper, roasted tomatoes, and red onion. Some of my veggies were roasted veggie leftovers…so effortless and delicious every single time!

Then you taste the rainbow (sorry, I couldn’t help it)!

There was one challenge with the pizza, though:

Because it’s in veggie based stripes, depending on how you arrange your veggies, your slices probably won’t include all of them. The next time I make this pizza, I’m making it on a circular crust so I can get all my veggies on one slice.

It was yummy, easy, and if you have kids, they’ll probably love it.

Here's hoping that meat-lovers, or as they're called in the Caribbean “meat-mouths” will agree. Enjoy!

The image used in this post is by Afrobella, used with permission.
Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl