African Myths, Busted

We’re all guilty of some stereotypes about Africa – I’ve never been there and I can assure you I have my own, mostly based on literature and my academic interests in development studies. That’s not the problem, but we should ask ourselves why. This powerful video confronts them spectacularly and challenges many of the most common ones.

I’m surprised so many ridiculous myths about what Africans live, work and play like are so powerful, and so monochromatic.

For a continent the size of the US, China, India, Japan, Eastern Europe, UK and eight other European countries combined, the fact that there are still only a handful of images of its life and people is outrageous.

 

I hope you enjoy this thought-provoking video and its message. It’s high time we started a proper series of conversations about why we are painting an entire continent with one stereotype (and let’s not shy away from the racism inherent in all of these assumptions) and thinking nothing of it.

Earth Day 2015

In honour of Earth Day, here’s a video showing the beauty in our natural world. Incredible!

Greenpeace released this important and moving video about what we truly ‘need’ – clean air, safe water, protected rainforests and biodiversity. Take a look:

This is also another important video from the Gaia Foundation, about how our modern consumption is taking a severe toll on the sustainability of this incredible planet.

Earth Day is a special occasion for us to stop and think about the beauty of the natural world, take it all in and to think long and hard about how we can preserve it for future generations. Small everyday acts of kindness towards our planet, each other and to the millions of species we co-exist with can help us preserve scenes like the ones we’ve just seen for generations to come. There are thousands of ways to take part in Earth Day and adopt new lifestyle practices. Have a look at the Earth Day Network’s page for some inspiration. Greenpeace is also a great resource. I’m going to enjoy the beautiful sunshine in Budapest today and take time to appreciate the natural beauty around me. Happy Earth Day!

I also came across this excellent article on HuffPost, about new ways to mitigate against climate change, and the new voices in the debate:

Training a Global Force of Climate Visionaries

Global climate disruption caused by human-generated carbon pollution is among the greatest challenge our species has ever faced, full stop. Now, more than ever, the global community is beginning to recognize the scope and scale of the climate crisis. And while the vastness of the problem can be daunting, the good news is that the solutions to solve it are right in front of us, in the form of the people we interact with every day.

To be clear, reaching a strong international emissions reductions agreement at COP21 in Paris at the end of the year is a critical step forward in halting global climate change. But the truth is that the power to act isn’t an exclusive right reserved by world leaders. People all over the world — in different countries, with different political ideologies and occupying different places in society — are realizing their power and taking action designed to change the politics of climate change and to support the transition to a clean-energy economy.

At the nonprofit Climate Reality Project, we seek to find these great leaders and make them exceptional, transforming them into agents of change with the knowledge, tools and drive to communicate effectively around climate-change impacts and solutions. Our Climate Reality Leaders range from teachers to businesspeople to pastors, but they share a common understanding of the urgency of climate action and a desire to become warriors on the front lines of the fight against climate change. Their work is evident everywhere, from family dinners to international summits.

The Climate Reality Leadership Corps — a dynamic group of thousands of world-changers shaping the climate conversation — began humbly: in 2006, former U.S. Vice President and Climate Reality Chairman Al Gore invited 50 people to join him in the Tennessee countryside to learn how best to explain global warming to their friends, colleagues, and peers. Since then, Climate Reality has honed and refined the model for larger international audiences; today, trainings are intensive two- or three-day programs all over the world that feature a blend of educational presentations, collaborative workshops, and ample networking time for attendees to get to know each other.

To date, Climate Reality has held 27 trainings around the world, training a global network of more than 7,500 activists from 125 countries. Each training focuses on the issues and solutions most relevant to the region: in Rio de Janeiro, indigenous leader Mayalú Kokometi Waurá Txucarramãe shared the devastating effects of deforestation, while in New Delhi, Sanjit Bunker Roy talked about his Barefoot College program, which trains illiterate rural grandmothers to install solar panels. At the upcoming training in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, speakers will delve into the impacts of climate change on the U.S. agricultural economy and the public-health implications of climate change, all in the context of the state’s significance in U.S. politics.

Climate Reality Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, with as many reasons for taking action. Former engineer Terry Gallagher — who will be a Climate Reality Mentor at our upcoming Iowa training — is now an ordained minister focused on faith-based social-justice action, advocacy and education, who uses his ministry as a forum for helping people engage in responding to climate change. Carol LeBlanc, an IT manager who works with the U.S. federal government, recognized the immediacy of climate change when her former Colorado Springs neighborhood was swallowed by wildfires in 2012.

Exactly because of their diversity of backgrounds, Climate Reality Leaders find the trainings to be highly personal experiences. This is reinforced in part because trainees work closely with Climate Reality Mentors throughout the process — people who have been through the trainings and use what they have learned to guide the next batch of Climate Reality Leaders.

Learning in this way — through intensive, hands-on experiences that can then be shared — not only encompasses the philosophy of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, it also offers a model for broad and systemic societal change, which is critical to solving the global climate crisis.

This post is part of a Huffington Post What’s Working series on the environment. The series is putting a spotlight on initiatives and solutions that are actually making a difference — whether in the battle against climate change, or tackling pollution or other environmental challenges. To see all the posts in the series, read here.

Tim Jackson on the Economics of Climate Change

I came across this incredible TED talk by Tim Jackson, the environmental economist, on how shifting the way we think about growth and prosperity could help us navigate the realities of climate change. It’s a brilliant summary of the moral and economic dilemmas facing the climate change debate and it’s also highly thought-provoking.

I am a huge admirer of Jackson’s work and if you enjoyed this talk, I recommend his fantastic book ‘Prosperity Without Growth‘ and his work with RESOLVE. You can read the book on an e-reader but there’s also a summary PDF here.

No Comment – Video: She’s Alive

Before you watch this video, I’d like to share these lyrics from Jim Morrison’s eternal ‘When The Music’s Over’:

What have they done to the Earth?

What have they done to our fair sister?

Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her

Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn

And tied her with fences and dragged her down.

 

Second Marriage in India and Tanishq’s Bold Ad

You may have seen this ad which Tanishq produced a few days ago. If not, take some time to have a look:

In case you don’t speak Hindi, the little girl asks the groom if she should now call him Daddy.

Tanishq is a famous, well-known and well-respected Indian jewellery company in India, established in 1994. It has a reputation for producing high quality products with a price tag to match.

So when they make an ad like this, people actually listen.

If you look at what they’re saying, it’s really quite special.

Not only are they celebrating a second (or third!) marriage for a woman, they are insisting we do too. In a society where a woman’s worth is linked to her ability to sustain a single marriage, no matter how disastrous and potentially flawed it might be, this is a very bold step.

Tanishq are of course also appealing to a new consumer set, trying to attract women who are remarrying – for whatever reason. I don’t deny that.

However, for this to air in India, there is also a strong social message.

On the one hand, an arranged marriage doesn’t always lead to wedded bliss. Not all normal, so-called ‘love’ marriages do, either. That’s an important point to make, especially in India where ‘giving up’ to get divorced is a sign of weakness, a lack of femininity on the part of a woman and of course, comes down to how she was as a wife. The husband is rarely, if ever, blamed for any marriage problems.

But I digress.

Tanishq haven’t specified the reasons for her getting married a second (or third!) time. She could have got a divorce because the marriage was unhappy; she could have been widowed; she could have been left for a multitude of reasons. I like that they’ve left it up to us to decide why.

A second bold move is their decision to cast a ‘dark-skinned’ actress. I’m hesitant to enter this debate, and frankly I didn’t even notice her skin colour until I scrolled down and read some YouTube comments.

(Normally a foolish error, I thought I’d give it a go this one time and see what the internet thought!)

Many were lauding this commercial of course, but there were so many who praised the choice of actress as much as they did the message behind the ad itself.

But I won’t go there; here’s the director of the ad, Gauri Shinde, talking about the actress’ skin colour, for India Today:

Was the use of a dusky model deliberate?

Of course not. I don’t even think that way. I don’t see these differences between dusky and fair and frankly I personally don’t even want to be part of that debate because I feel there is a complex at play; against the dusky, against the fair. It’s unnecessary. Everyone’s beautiful.

I don’t like the little girl, or the style of the ad itself, but that’s purely cultural. I think the style is rather juvenile and the actress for the child comes across as a big brat which sort of ruins it all for me!

But I’m really interested in how this ad is being received in India and how people are talking about the idea of women getting married multiple times and celebrating those marriages instead of hiding themselves.

In some areas, widows are told to wear white, to distinguish themselves from other women. In this horrible stigmatisation, it can be really difficult for women to be seen as anything more than the successes, failures or length of their marriages.

I’m going to keep an eye on this one, and I’ll let you know how it pans out!

What do you think? Was this a bold move? Did you like the ad? How about what it’s trying to say? Does Priyanka Bose’s skin colour matter? Let me know!

No Comment: Malala Yousafzai on Jon Stewart’s ‘Daily Show’

Words fail me. I know this video has already done the rounds over the past few days, but still.

You all need to take five minutes out of your days to watch this. Now.

Video: Stabilising the Global Population – where next for the Millennium Development Goals?

In preparation for tomorrow morning’s ‘Understanding Poverty’ exam, I’m re-watching this fantastic lecture from the Director of the Institute for Global Health, the lovely Anthony Costello. Had a great time attending it and chatting to him was fascinating!

He talks about measuring progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those on nutrition and health.

In typical development studies style, he’s a bit of a communist and openly criticises bad governance and big corporations and their corruption. Wonderful!

It can also be downloaded from iTunes University by searching for this URL:

http://deimos3.apple.com/WebObjects/Core.woa/Feed/ucl.ac.uk-dz.5993416793.05993416795