Here is an article with some interesting facts on paper. For example, "28 percent of all wood cut in the U.S. is used for papermaking" vs. 35 percent elsewhere due to less recycling. But like oil, with 5 percent of the world population, the U.S. consumes 30 percent of all paper.
Take a minute to look around the room you’re in and notice how many things are made out of paper. There may be books, a few magazines, some printer paper, and perhaps a poster on the wall. Yet, if you consider that each person in the United States uses 749 pounds (340kg) of paper every year (adding up to a whopping 187 billion pounds (85 billion kg) per year for the entire population, by far the largest per capita consumption rate of paper for any country in the world), then you realize that paper comes in many more forms than meets the eye.
World consumption of paper has grown 400 percent in the last 40 years. Now nearly 4 billion trees or 35 percent of the total trees cut around the world are used in paper industries on every continent. Besides what you can see around you, paper comes in many forms from tissue paper to cardboard packaging to stereo speakers to electrical plugs to home insulation to the sole inserts in your tennis shoes. In short, paper is everywhere.
In the popular imagination, cities are often associated with distinctive personalities. In India, for instance, Mumbai is often seen as a city of dreams and possibilities. In an interesting new book, Daniel A. Bell & Avner de-Shalit explore the character of cities in greater depth, The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age. Below is the book abstract; also read the introductory chapter.
Cities shape the lives and outlooks of billions of people, yet they have been overshadowed in contemporary political thought by nation-states, identity groups, and concepts like justice and freedom. The Spirit of Cities revives the classical idea that a city expresses its own distinctive ethos or values. In the ancient world, Athens was synonymous with democracy and Sparta represented military discipline. In this original and engaging book, Daniel Bell and Avner de-Shalit explore how this classical idea can be applied to today's cities, and they explain why philosophy and the social sciences need to rediscover the spirit of cities.
Bell and de-Shalit look at nine modern cities and the prevailing ethos that distinguishes each one. The cities are Jerusalem (religion), Montreal (language), Singapore (nation building), Hong Kong (materialism), Beijing (political power), Oxford (learning), Berlin (tolerance and intolerance), Paris (romance), and New York (ambition). Bell and de-Shalit draw upon the richly varied histories of each city, as well as novels, poems, biographies, tourist guides, architectural landmarks, and the authors' own personal reflections and insights. They show how the ethos of each city is expressed in political, cultural, and economic life, and also how pride in a city's ethos can oppose the homogenizing tendencies of globalization and curb the excesses of nationalism.
The Spirit of Cities is unreservedly impressionistic. Combining strolling and storytelling with cutting-edge theory, the book encourages debate and opens up new avenues of inquiry in philosophy and the social sciences. It is a must-read for lovers of cities everywhere.
Katherine Boo, a journalist known for her perceptive writing about the poor and the voiceless, has just published a book about the people of the Annawadi slum in Mumbai. It is getting some really great reviews. Here is an excerpt from one by Thrity Umrigar:
And yet, despite such instances of human decency, the residents of Annawadi are not the saintly, noble poor of much fiction. There are no Tiny Tims or Tom Joads here. They cannot afford to be. Living on subsistence wages, beside sewer lakes and mud-cased pigs and goats, standing in line for hours for a trickle of water, facing the daily threat of the imminent razing of the illegal slum, battling their own superstitions and flaws, killing themselves to pay for a substandard education for their children doesn’t leave much time for human kindness.
This is not poverty porn. Rather, it is an unflinching, unsentimental portrait of the city’s poor - mean, envious, striving. There is no apotheosis in poverty, Boo reminds us. There is only humiliation and a kind of bewilderment.
Affluent Indians are deeply sensitive about the “negative’’ portrayal of their country, and I suppose Boo will come in for her share of criticism. This would be a mistake. “Beautiful Forevers’’ is an astoundingly honest, nonexploitative piece of journalism, a humane, powerful and insightful book that reveals how the world’s poor live, die, and hope in the age of globalization.
Here is an excellent BBC documentary, Ganges, on the river's Himalayan birth and descent, its journey through the plains, and its end in the Bay of Bengal in what is the largest river delta in the world. The series focuses on the natural history and human life along the river's course. The three episodes embedded below (one hour each) are: (1) Daughter of the Mountains, (2) River of Life, (3) Waterland. One critique I have is that by concentrating the most beautiful and the rarest nature and wildlife footage, the series encourages the highly misguided impression that the environment along the river's course is robust and thriving.
Anthropologist Melvin Konner reviews Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origins of Mutual Understanding by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, who argues that "more than a million years ago, a line of apes began to rear their young differently than their Great Ape ancestors. From this new form of care came new ways of engaging and understanding each other. How such singular human capacities evolved, and how they have kept us alive for thousands of generations, is the mystery revealed in this bold and wide-ranging new vision of human emotional evolution."
It is possible to see Hrdy’s most recent book, Mothers and Others, as the third in a trilogy that began with The Woman That Never Evolved. It may be the most important. As she demolished, in the first, the idol of an evolved passive femininity, and in the second, the serene, always giving maternal goddess, in her third synthetic work she takes on another cultural and biological ideal: the mother who goes it alone. In our once male-dominated vision of evolution, we had the lone brave man, the hunter with his spear, and the lone enduring woman nurturing her young beneath the African sun; they made a deal, the first social contract, exchanging the services each was suited to by genetic destiny.
Hrdy has not been alone in challenging this myth. A conference and book edited by Richard Lee and Irven DeVore, although it was called Man the Hunter, showed that women brought in half or more of the food of hunter-gatherers by collecting vegetables, fruit, and nuts. This meant that, given the unpredictability of hunting success and the human need for plant foods, the primordial deal between the sexes was rather more complex than we thought. It also suggested that women had power in these societies; that men listened to them and decisions were made by consensus, not by male fiat as in more complex, hierarchical societies. ...
In Mothers and Others, [Hrdy] situates this pivotal mother-infant pair not in an empty expanse of savanna, waiting for a man to arrive with his killed game, but where it actually belongs, in the dense social setting of a hunter-gatherer or, before that, an ape or monkey group. Hrdy argues convincingly that social support was crucial to human success, that compared with other primates, humans are uniquely cooperative, and that it was precisely cooperation in child care that gave rise to this general bent.
An insightful talk by Georg Sørensen on the world order today, where he considers four dimensions: (a) war and peace, (b) global economy, (c) institutions and governance, and (d) global environment. Sørensen is distinguished professor of international politics and economics in Denmark and has written fifteen books "on international relations and development issues. His research areas include society and politics, international community, democracy and development, prospects for a liberal world order, transformations of the state and its effects on international relations." If you like this, check out another recent talk by him on Democracy and Democratization.
Here is a great article by Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen on growth vs. development—how the two can feed each other but not in any automatic way, not without the right planning and investment—and why India, despite good economic growth has fared abysmally on human development when compared to other similar nations, especially in South Asia. Must read.
Is India doing marvellously well, or is it failing terribly? Depending on whom you speak to, you could pick up either of those answers with some frequency. One story, very popular among a minority but a large enough group—of Indians who are doing very well (and among the media that cater largely to them)—runs something like this. “After decades of mediocrity and stagnation under ‘Nehruvian socialism’, the Indian economy achieved a spectacular take-off during the last two decades. This take-off, which led to unprecedented improvements in income per head, was driven largely by market initiatives. It involves a significant increase in inequality, but this is a common phenomenon in periods of rapid growth. With enough time, the benefits of fast economic growth will surely reach even the poorest people, and we are firmly on the way to that.” Despite the conceptual confusion involved in bestowing the term ‘socialism’ to a collectivity of grossly statist policies of ‘Licence raj’ and neglect of the state’s responsibilities for school education and healthcare, the story just told has much plausibility, within its confined domain.
But looking at contemporary India from another angle, one could equally tell the following—more critical and more censorious—story: “The progress of living standards for common people, as opposed to a favoured minority, has been dreadfully slow—so slow that India’s social indicators are still abysmal.” For instance, according to World Bank data, only five countries outside Africa (Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Yemen) have a lower “youth female literacy rate” than India (World Development Indicators 2011, online). To take some other examples, only four countries (Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Myanmar and Pakistan) do worse than India in child mortality rate; only three have lower levels of “access to improved sanitation” (Bolivia, Cambodia and Haiti); and none (anywhere—not even in Africa) have a higher proportion of underweight children. Almost any composite index of these and related indicators of health, education and nutrition would place India very close to the bottom in a ranking of all countries outside Africa.
So which of the two stories—unprecedented success or extraordinary failure—is correct? The answer is both, for they are both valid, and they are entirely compatible with each other.
Dharavi, Asia's largest slum, is usually spoken of as a hell-hole and a shame for urban India. Here is a very different viewpoint. "Look beyond the stereotype," says urban development consultant Prakash M. Apte, "and you'll find a successful settlement with a vibrant community and economy. But developers want to raze it all and start again ... Dharavi is a model that should be replicated, not redeveloped."
The Indian megacity of Mumbai has an estimated population of about 14 million. Of those, only about 35% live in 'regular' permanent housing. The other 65% live in informal settlements, which for more than a third of those people means squatting on sidewalks and under bridges. The rest -- nearly 6 million people -- occupy settlements on private and public open lands, some of which are more than 50 years old. Dharavi is one of the most famous, but unlike all others and despite its common depiction as a "slum", it is actually a successful work-cum-residential settlement. Developers have been trying to redevelop the area for years, but Dharavi is a model settlement that needs to be replicated, not replaced.
Located in the heart of Mumbai, Dharavi has a population of more than 600,000 people residing in 100,000 makeshift homes, and one of the world’s highest population densities at more than 12,000 persons per acre. It is just across from the Bandra- Kurla Complex—a fast developing commercial center that has overtaken Nariman Point, the current downtown of Mumbai—and is also located close to Mumbai’s domestic and international airports. Despite its plastic and tin structures and lack of infrastructure, Dharavi is a unique, vibrant, and thriving 'cottage' industry complex, the only one of its kind in the world.
More here (browse the comments too). Below is a related TED Talk by Robert Neuwirth who finds "squatter cities—where a billion people now make their homes—to be thriving centers of ingenuity and innovation." Check out another TED Talk by Steward Brand on squatter cities.
In a large mausoleum on Tiananmen Square, Beijing, lies a crystal sarcophagus containing the mortal remains of Mao Zedong. Every day, masses of Chinese citizens line up on this largest of the world’s public squares to view and pay tribute to him. An immense, framed portrait of Mao gazes beatifically upon them from the high walls of the once Forbidden City, a palace fortress at the edge of the square. A few years ago, I too had arrived hoping for a glimpse of the man—the spectacle of Mao’s refrigerated body held for me nearly as much morbid fascination as my interest in his legacy and place in the Chinese imagination.
As it happened, the mausoleum was closed for renovation. Disappointed, I mused that perhaps the real reason for closing the mausoleum was to hide the evidence that Mao had been turning in his grave of late: watching China grind from feudalism to communism to capitalism in a mere half century cannot be good for his repose. If “communism” means a classless society with a centrally planned economy in which the state owns the primary means of production, then poor old Mao—as the man who fought for it, forged it, and upheld it for decades—became irrelevant long ago. And though the frozen Mao may still be revered, the pulse of China throbs now to a different beat.
For some years now, the zeitgeist in China has been closer to what Deng Xiaoping, a successor to Mao, neatly voiced in 1993: “To get rich is glorious.” And today it seems that the only thing still communist about China is the name of the party that continues to rule it with an iron hand; for while China’s communist leaders have embraced capitalism with an astonishing zeal, they have not allowed the free flow of ideas and information within China. Ordinary citizens are actively kept in the dark even about the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square. As I stood on the square, among the crowds of locals and holiday makers, flying kites or striking “I was there!” poses in front of Mao’s portrait, it struck me that most of the people around me—and most Chinese nationals under the age of 35—do not even know about the event that transpired there.
From Imran Garda of Al Jazeera comes this rare, insightful, and truly heartrending report on the plight of the Adivasis. "A 40-year long civil war has been raging in the jungles of central and eastern India. It is one of the world's largest armed conflicts but it remains largely ignored outside of India. Caught in the crossfire of it are the Adivasis, who are believed to be India's earliest inhabitants. A loose collection of tribes ... about 84 million of these indigenous people, which is about eight per cent of the country's population. ... The uprising by Maoist fighters and its brutal suppression by the Indian government, has claimed more than 10,000 lives since 1980, and displaced 12 million people." But numbers do not reveal the larger tragedy, stories like this do, which we hardly ever find in the Indian media. (Via Usha.)
This breezy BBC documentary (early 2011) explores the nature and impact of China's rising influence around the world, especially in Africa, Brazil, and the U.S., and how China is reshaping the balance of power among nations.
Over a million Chinese now live and work in Africa, running high-yield chicken farms to giant mining operations, selling goods, lending money, building infrastructure. Inevitably, they have also brought with them a range of cultural values and economic practices that cause friction at times. Pop pundit Tom Friedman says of the chinese: "what's most unsettling to most Americans is not their communism, it's their capitalism". That said, you can also see this two-hour documentary as a series of human stories from a rapidly changing world—from Angola, Zambia, Congo, Tanzania, Brazil, and the U.S.—and ponder the role each of us plays in the unfolding of the world as it does.
An encouraging report on the current state and outlook for the solar energy industry. "The cost of solar panels has dropped significantly. Thanks to that and to new financing, the rooftop solar business is going gangbusters." Listen to the audio report, or read the transcript.
Recent reports of solar companies going bankrupt and stories about alleged federal loan scandals have cast long shadows on the entire solar industry. But the sun is far from setting on photovoltaics. In fact, in 2010 - solar panels that could generate 17 gigawatts of energy - that's equal to about 17 nuclear power plants - were sold worldwide. And this year, the US industry expects to double its production, and companies are growing fast to meet the demand for roof top panels. Living On Earth's Ingrid Lobet reports.
In Scientific American, Christie Wilcox exposes a few myths about organic food:
Ten years ago, Certified Organic didn’t exist in the United States. Yet in 2010, a mere eight years after USDA’s regulations officially went into effect, organic foods and beverages made $26.7 billion. In the past year or two, certified organic sales have jumped to about $52 billion worldwide despite the fact that organic foods cost up to three times as much as those produced by conventional methods. More and more, people are shelling out their hard-earned cash for what they believe are the best foods available. Imagine, people say: you can improve your nutrition while helping save the planet from the evils of conventional agriculture – a complete win-win. And who wouldn’t buy organic, when it just sounds so good?
Here’s the thing: there are a lot of myths out there about organic foods, and a lot of propaganda supporting methods that are rarely understood. It’s like your mother used to say: just because everyone is jumping off a bridge doesn’t mean you should do it, too. Now, before I get yelled at too much, let me state unequivocally that I’m not saying organic farming is bad – far from it. There are some definite upsides and benefits that come from many organic farming methods. For example, the efforts of organic farmers to move away from monocultures, where crops are farmed in single-species plots, are fantastic; crop rotations and mixed planting are much better for the soil and environment. My goal in this post isn’t to bash organic farms, instead, it’s to bust the worst of the myths that surround them so that everyone can judge organic farming based on facts. In particular, there are four myths thrown around like they’re real that just drive me crazy.
Myth #1: Organic Farms Don’t Use Pesticides
Myth #2: Organic Foods are Healthier
Myth #3: Organic Farming Is Better For The Environment
Myth #4: It’s all or none
In this city that barely existed two decades ago, there are 26 shopping malls, seven golf courses and luxury shops selling Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs shimmer in automobile showrooms. Apartment towers are sprouting like concrete weeds, and a futuristic commercial hub called Cyber City houses many of the world’s most respected corporations.
Gurgaon, located about 15 miles south of the national capital, New Delhi, would seem to have everything, except consider what it does not have: a functioning citywide sewer or drainage system; reliable electricity or water; and public sidewalks, adequate parking, decent roads or any citywide system of public transportation. Garbage is still regularly tossed in empty lots by the side of the road.
With its shiny buildings and galloping economy, Gurgaon is often portrayed as a symbol of a rising “new” India, yet it also represents a riddle at the heart of India’s rapid growth: how can a new city become an international economic engine without basic public services? How can a huge country flirt with double-digit growth despite widespread corruption, inefficiency and governmental dysfunction?
(Cross-posted on 3 Quarks Daily.)
Grande Riviere, a tiny village on the northeastern coast of Trinidad, is one of the few beaches in the world where the leatherback turtle comes to nest. It lies near the end of a serpentine road that hugs the palm-fringed Atlantic coast for miles, then cuts through the lush rainforest of the Northern Range. A river, for which the village is named, and the rainforest—abuzz with the sound of crickets and birds—tumble onto its Caribbean sands, giving the place a remote and sensual air.
Cacao plantations once flourished here but the few hundred people of Grande Riviere now rely on fishing and ecotourism. All three or four of its pricey tourist lodges are near the beach; a village bar, a couple of provision stores and eateries, and a post office are on the main road further behind. The star attraction, and the primary reason for our visit last month, is clearly the leatherback.
My partner, Usha, and I arrived in the early evening with Ulric, our gentlemanly guide of Afro-Carib ancestry, whom we had hired in Port of Spain to drive us to a few places on the island. After we decided to stay at the Le Grande Almandier (the LP guidebook called it "the best value"), he left to spend the night at a friend's place in a nearby town. Being the kind who love their work, he had gone out of his way to bring alive the island and its people to us, not the least through his own personal history. All day his Trini English had grown on me. Dinner consisted of vegetarian pickings from a Creole-French menu, a legacy of the plantation era culture in these parts. At the Visitor Center, we secured our permits to see the turtles, saw a documentary film on them, and waited.
Is there another animal that appears more often in human mythology, folklore, and literature than the turtle and its land dwelling cousin, the tortoise? They have variously stood for wisdom, tenacity, longevity, fertility, or stability in cultures around the world. The leatherback is the largest of all living turtles, the male up to 900 kgs and 3 m. It feeds mostly on jellyfish and lives up to 45 years (a disputed number). Unlike other turtles, it lacks a bony shell but has a hard leathery skin. That plus its powerful flippers and hydrodynamic body allow it to dive down to 1400 m and swim as fast as 35 kmph. Given its large size, its natural predators include only sharks, killer whales, and now humans.
Look out for Human Planet from the BBC, "an awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, heart-stopping landmark series that marvels at mankind's incredible relationship with nature in the world today. Uniquely in the animal kingdom, humans have managed to adapt and thrive in every environment on Earth. Each episode takes you to the extremes of our planet: the arctic, mountains, oceans, jungles, grasslands, deserts, rivers and even the urban jungle. Here you will meet people who survive by building complex, exciting and often mutually beneficial relationships with their animal neighbours and the hostile elements of the natural world." YouTube has many clips from the series.
The series began airing earlier this month in the UK and will have an international release later this year.
The Bengal Tiger, India's national animal, once thrived all over South Asia in a range of habitats, from mangrove swamps to savanna to rainforest. It frequents Indian art and folklore and appears even on seals of the Indus Valley Civilization. But owing to the human population explosion in the last century, trophy hunting by former British and Indian royals and others, shrinking habitats, and the importance of tiger parts in traditional Chinese medicine, it is severely endangered today.
Barely a thousand tigers now survive in the wild, down from 40,000 a century ago. As recently as the 1990s, there were 3X more tigers than today—implying a tiger lost every third day since! Seems to me that the majestic animal that Jim Corbett called "a large-hearted gentleman" is heading for extinction (I saw one in the Corbett NP in 2005). This is despite Project Tiger, a major conservation effort begun in 1973 with 9 tiger reserves, expanding to 27.
In 2003, I visited the Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan with my parents. I took some video footage that I've edited and posted below (8 mins). It shows no tigers but includes an interesting segment of a local man, Dharma, employed by a guesthouse at the reserve, reminiscing about the olden days when the area was full of tigers. Brimming with stories of close encounters, he had honed a bard-like storytelling style replete with bluster and machismo to convey all the drama, and was happy to have an audience. Curiously, he told us that there were no tigers left in Sariska, well before a 2005 investigation revealed that the park had "lost" all 26 of its tigers that were supposedly there when we visited in 2003 (after that disaster—listen to Attenborough describe it—a few tigers were recently reintroduced from a nearby reserve). The video also includes scenes from the reserve with animals like cheetal, sambar, nilgai, peacock, wild pig, langur, and more. Enjoy!
An article in the Economist on the ambitious new field of geoengineering:
Geoengineering is shorthand for the idea of fixing the problem of man-made climate change once the greenhouse gases that cause it have already been emitted into the atmosphere, rather than trying to stop those emissions happening in the first place. Ideas for such fixes include smogging up the air to reflect more sunlight back into space, sucking in excess carbon dioxide using plants or chemistry, and locking up the glaciers of the world’s ice caps so that they cannot fall into the ocean and cause sea levels to rise.
Many people think such ideas immoral, or a distraction from the business of haranguing people to produce less carbon dioxide, or both—and certain to provoke unintended consequences, to boot. It was the strength of that opposition which drove the subject onto the agenda at Nagoya. But that strength is also a reflection of the fact that many scientists now take the idea of geoengineering seriously. Over the past few years research in the field has boomed. What is sometimes called Plan B seems to be taking shape on the laboratory bench—and seeking to escape outside.
The Kogi are relics of a pre-Columbian civilization, one of very few peoples who have remained separate from the European influences that have shaped the history of South America. They continue to live in austere traditional homes and wear only their homespun cotton clothes, as they have done for unknown generations. They follow their ancient belief system, in which Aluna is the mystical world in which reality is conceived. Their homeland, a great massif in coastal Columbia called Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, is rugged and remote enough to have preserved their isolation for hundreds of years.
This same geography is also responsible for providing the Kogi with a unique view of environmental degradation and climate change, since their mountains, which rise from the tropical waters of the Caribbean shoreline to over 18,000 feet (5,700 m), are home to nearly every type of ecological zone in the world. To the Kogi, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the heart of the world, and their spiritual leaders, Mamos, have been entrusted with its care. But over these recent decades they have witnessed so much change and destruction that they—who call themselves Elder Brothers to the Younger Brother of the West—feel they must step forth and engage with the West in order to impart a message, a warning, a lesson: our way of life is destroying the world, and we must learn to see the earth in a new way.
They have decided that the best way to communicate may be through the West's medium of choice: film. And to this end, they have teamed with documentary filmmaker Alan Ereira to make a documentary in which the Kogi hope to show us the way they see the world. As it's described on the film's website:
In the face of the approaching apocalypse, they will take us on a perilous journey into the mysteries of their sacred places to change our understanding of reality. It is a journey encountering the dangers, the terrors, the power of the force that they perceive as driving reality, and which is now being torn apart and about to be released not as benevolent life, but as savage chaos. This is an epic tale in which the struggles of other-worldly heroes, invoked in fearsome masked and costumed rituals, are interwoven with the contemporary crisis. They intend to show that their work has visible and measurable results, that they really are taking care of the entire Earth.
They have even trained an indigenous film crew to work alongside the professionals, so that what the modern film crew cannot see may appear to the camera. The Mamos (spiritual leaders) understand that they have to do this because humanity is wantonly destroying sacred sites for profit. They want to show how and why the resulting eruption of chaotic cosmic energy causes climate change, epidemics of new diseases, geological instability and a relentless increase in murderous conflict.
The Kogi have warned us of climate change once before, in an earlier documentary initiated by Ereira for British television in 1990. Ereira's film, From the Heart of the World: The Elder Brothers' Warning, seems to have come before it's time, since, as the Kogi realized, we didn't listen to them the first time.
The Guardian interviews Jacinto Zarabata, the first Kogi to visit the UK, to find backing for their own film, Aluna:
What are Jacinto's first impressions of our society?
"The first thing that is noticeable to me is that this is still the world," he says. "What's visible is construction, what you have made. This is not something we, the Kogi, are used to seeing. You give precedence to the use of a thing rather than its source. That's the intellectual error. Ultimately, it's all nature." From Jacinto's viewpoint, when we glance at a car we might assess its cost and the status conferred on its driver. We don't recognise it as a clever piece of engineering of resources that once lay inside the earth.
The Kogi are witnessing some of this extraction first hand. Coal mining in the Sierra Nevada has boomed in recent decades (fuelled in part by the demand for cheap foreign coal in post-miners' strike Britain). Over centuries, they survived the wars waged on them by retreating further into the mountains, through dense rainforest and cloud forest dubbed "El Infierno" by settlers. There are still no roads to the Kogi's traditional settlements (Jacinto's home does not exist on official maps), but global capitalism is slowly conquering the Kogi's isolation.
Why is little brother so greedy? Jacinto chuckles and rubs his gourd, a sign he is thinking. (The mushroom shaped cap on the gourd, which men carry to symbolise their connection with the womb, is a sign of his accumulated thought.) "Habit," he says, finally. "That ambition to have more doesn't have a framework. It's just a drive to accumulate. The habit is a competitive one. 'What everyone else has I must have too, otherwise everyone else has power over me.' The consequences are evident, but it doesn't seem obvious to you," Jacinto says. "You can go and live in space, that's fine, but you don't seem to be able to go back to the understanding of how to live harmoniously with the earth. That's something you've forgotten."
Yet the Kogi hope we can still reconnect, by seeing the value they place on thinking and their spiritual world. "When you understand that, you begin to understand yourself a bit more," Jacinto says. "Originally, the great mama brought us into being so we would be guardians of nature. You, the little brother, was given this knowledge of how to treat the earth and the water and the air. At some point there was divergence and you, the little brother, went on a different path.
"We, by example, don't live like you do. You come to the Sierra, there are no factories, there is no industrial agriculture. Now we really want you to look at the images of how we live."
In today's economy, mortgages can be a millstone. That's new. Time was, workers expected to stay with one company for decades and see a steady rise in annual income. But these days, being in the workforce is a game of constant reinvention. Workers expect to change companies, even professions, multiple times. Households are much more likely now than in the past to see income dip dramatically ... For homeowners, quickly adapting to new financial realities is rarely an option. Homeownership may provide a sense of stability to families, but stability in today's economy isn't always a virtue. What families need in order to maintain income is the flexibility that homeownership works against....
In the U.S., homeownership typically goes with living in single-family detached dwellings. Eighty-nine percent of stand-alone houses are owned, while just 17% of apartments are. There is a logic to this: for a landlord, an apartment building provides an economy of scale that a suburban development doesn't. But that means that a system that glorifies and subsidizes homeownership pushes people to live in suburbs, where they, or developers, can find more-affordable patches of land on which to build. Of course, it's fine to choose to live miles from a city, but that choice comes with broader consequences. People who live in detached houses use 49% more energy ... than people who live in buildings with five or more apartments ... Suburban living requires driving a car practically everywhere, which in turn means that U.S. energy policy prioritizes cheap oil — whatever the geopolitical and environmental consequences....
[Tax breaks and subsidies to homeowners are not] fair: there are no blanket subsidies for the tens of millions of American families that rent either because they choose to or because they have to. Nor are these tax breaks efficient economic policy ... The U.K. got rid of its mortgage-interest deduction years ago, and its homeownership rate is still higher than that of the U.S. ... More unsettling yet is the way the mortgage-interest tax deduction entices people to borrow big: you get the deduction for the interest on the loan, not for owning the house or paying down the debt. ... a self-described "pro-ownership guy," recalls how his accountant once suggested he buy a larger house in order to get a better deduction ... In Switzerland, one of the world's richest nations, two-thirds of all families rent.
Comparing China and India has become a popular pastime in some quarters, including aspects of their national economies, political systems, infrastructure, human development, environment, and more. In this audio interview, Romesh Vaitilingam interviews Pranab Bardhan of UC Berkeley about his new book ‘Awakening Giants, Feet of Clay: Assessing the Economic Rise of China and India’. It is a brisk yet insightful overview (via Robin Varghese/3QD).
Click below to listen.
The city of Chan Chan on Peru's Pacific coast was the largest city in the Americas 600 years ago:
Located near the Pacific coast city of Trujillo, Chan Chan was the capital of the Chimú civilization, which lasted from A.D. 850 to around 1470. The adobe metropolis was the seat of power for an empire that stretched 600 miles from just south of Ecuador down to central Peru. By the 15th century, as many as 60,000 people lived in Chan Chan—mostly workers who served an all-powerful monarch, and privileged classes of highly skilled craftsmen and priests. The Chimú followed a strict hierarchy based on a belief that all men were not created equal. According to Chimú myth, the sun populated the world by creating three eggs: gold for the ruling elite, silver for their wives and copper for everybody else.The city was established in one of the world's bleakest coastal deserts, where the average annual rainfall was less than a tenth of an inch. Still, Chan Chan's fields and gardens flourished, thanks to a sophisticated network of irrigation canals and wells. When a drought, coupled with movements in the earth's crust, apparently caused the underground water table to drop sometime around the year 1000, Chimú rulers devised a bold plan to divert water through a canal from the Chicama River 50 miles to the north.