Monday, December 28, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
I've been doing some research on Afghanistan, its history, and its current status. It hasn't been a fun time, but it has been an enlightening one.
Afghanistan I: the land of drugs and death
The country of Afghanistan has a long history of internal warfare, as well as consistent invasion by neighbouring (or distant) countries. The geography and climate of Afghanistan has had a strong influence on its war-torn history, often acerbating social and political strife. It is landlocked with a climate that varies sharply throughout its different regions. Each area, from the lush, green pastures in the north, high mountain plateaus, and desolate, windy desert, has been exploited and misused to the determent of the entire country.
Afghanistan is non-coastal, located in southern Asia, and is situated to the east of Iran and both north and west of Pakistan. On the eastern side of the country Afghanistan also shares a very small border with China. The north is predominantly pastoral farmland, with fertile grassy plains, cultivated fields, and rolling hills. It also has central highlands, which are mountainous and dangerous, encompassing the heart, and majority, of the country. Further to the south is desert, dominated by dry winds and unforgiving, harsh weather.
In the north farmers grow wheat, rice, and cotton, while wandering shepherds graze their sheep and goats. Although this sounds like the idyllic homeland of Heidi, the area has all but forgotten peace. There has been severe drought, destroying crops and herds, and land mines are scattered throughout the region, severely restricting grazing flocks. In the past decade much of the farmland once used for wheat has been transformed and is now primarily used for poppy cultivation. The seeds are processed to make opium and heroin, and nintey-two percent of the world’s opium coming from Afghanistan’s northern region alone, the result is a lucrative drug-smuggling business for terrorists like the Taliban.
Afghanistan’s largest region is the central highlands, an area which has played a vital role in the history of the struggle for control of Afghanistan. This area includes a large portion of the Hindu Kush Mountains, a part of the Himalayas. These cover nearly two-thirds of the country, and are so rough and treacherous that their name roughly translates to mean the Killer of Hindus. The ranges are unforgiving and rough, prone to earthquakes and sudden weather changes. This desert-steppe area typically has snow and strong winds due to its high elevation. The deep valleys and high, ragged mountains are a perfect hiding place for anyone who does not wish to be found, as long as such a person knows how to survive in such a harsh climate.
The mostly barren and windswept area of Afghanistan is located in the desert of the southern plateau. This area is close to the borders of both Pakistan and Iran, and is extremely unwelcoming. It is where the Taliban has its strongest foothold, spreading across the desert into Pakistan. The south is mostly infertile desert, with only a few rivers snaking across it, allowing for some fertile soil.
Regardless of region, Afghanistan is a broken country. The climate and geographical conditions are acerbated by warfare, political instability, and bloodthirsty religious fervor. The strengths of each region have been exploited, whether by drug lords or terrorists or both, resulting in a country full of harsh weather, violence, and poverty.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Its not quite as advanced as Terminator technology. But a new concrete that can heal its own wounds may soon bring futuristic protection to bridges and roads.
Um... so this is one of the coolest and most productive inventions I've seen (except cloaking technology... that beats all in coolness)! This concrete will make buildings, roads and bridges, SO much safer! Say goodbye to potholes!
Living at Sea
Championed by California-based competition sponsor the Seasteading Institute, the high-seas homesteading movement is all about creating tiny frontier lands "where those who wish to experiment with building new societies can go to test out their ideas," according to the institute's Web site.
Don't forget to click through all the pictures! I'd LOVE if one of these ideas could be invented! Woot!
Thursday, May 21, 2009
"It is the biggest toxic dumping scandal of the 21st century, the type of environmental vandalism that international treaties are supposed to prevent. A giant multinational is being sued in London's High Court by thousands of Africans who claim they were injured as a result of the waste that was illegally tipped on Ivory Coast's biggest city, Abidjan."
"The province of Shanxi in central China is one of the most polluted places in the world and according to government officials, the rate of birth defects in this region is six times higher than the national average."
Monday, April 27, 2009
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Terrifying plight of Afghan actress
“Afghan actress Parwin Mushthal's passion for her job has exacted a heavy toll - resulting in the murder of her husband and forcing her to live in hiding with her two children.”
Mushtal first began acting in highschool, and now has been in more than 20 theatre productions, dozens of films, and has regular television appearances. Her face is well known in Afganistan, but in this country, such popularity can be dangerous. In fact, Mushtal hid her acting career from her husband’s family, and when they came to visit, made sure the television was used only to watch movies.
In a country where the influence of the Taleban is growing stronger, acting is often linked with immorality. Women who act are often accused of prostitution, threatened, and even abused. Mushtal received such threats, and often arrived to work only to find people waiting at the entrance, blocking her path, and telling her she shouldn’t be working. She received threatening phone calls and was abused walking in the streets. People began to recognize her, and once, walking home with her young son, a stranger on a bike violently punched her in the back as he passed. She fell to the ground and injured her leg so badly that she still has pain months later. She thought perhaps the abuse was directed at her due to her clothing, so she began dressing more modestly and began wearing a scarf over her head. It wasn’t until her husband began receiving phone calls asking why he allowed his wife to act that she realized what the problem was. By then, it was too late.
One night in December a man repeatedly called her husband, telling him to come out of the house. He refused. The next night he began calling again, and eventually her husband agreed to meet him. Mushtal became concerned when he didn’t return after dark, and at eight o’clock heard shooting. She was afraid the man would come into the house next, so she locked the door and waited all night. In the morning police found her husband’s body, shot numerous times.
Now Parwin Pashtal is in hiding, wearing a full-length burka so she can't be recognized. She lives in constant fear that someone will recognize her and come after her or her two children. Pashtal’s story is not an anomaly in Afganistan. The Taleban is gaining strength in many cities, and is openly critical of women in the workplace. The result is situations like Pashtal’s, where women are threatened, abused, and even forced into hiding.
I wish this story could end on a happier note, but it can't. I wish I could DO something. Thus far, all I am doing is writing notes reaching very, VERY few people. Spreading information is one thing, but I don't feel like I'm actually helping improve anything. I want to help things CHANGE.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
You guys remember the Valdex oil spill back in ’89? Well on March 23 an oil tanker stranded and leaked 11 million gallons of crude, making it the worst oil spill in US history. Clean up started immediately after the accident, and continued until 1994, when experts determined that the oil was naturally disintegrating rapidly, and that in a few years it would be completely gone. So, where are we 20 years later?
Instead of disappearing, the oil breakdown in areas with irregular water flow has slowed, and according to recently completed research by the WWF, there are still 21,000 gallons of the toxic sludge coating Alaska’s shores and poisoning the wildlife. I’m not going to go into how much damage this spill caused (and is still causing, and will continue to cause), because it’s depressing. Hopefully Australia fares better.
Water Is Not a Human Right
Access to clean water is NOT a human right, according to a the Istanbul Ministerial Statement, which was adopted by ministers and heads of delegations from more than 150 countries. They agreed that clean water is a human need, but not a human right.
Anyone else think that’s bull****?!! I was PISSED when I read this.
And get this, they published it to purposely coincide with the United Nations' World Water Day. How’s that for irony?
What’s the saying about a white elephant? Well, how about pink? In Botswana a wildlife cameraman managed to catch sight of a pink African elephant calf, which experts believe is most likely an albino. Unlike Asian elephants, who spend a lot of time in jungle areas, African elephants spend a lot of time in the open, unprotected from the burning sun. Although this baby albino has slim chances for survival, his sensitive skin making him particularly vulnerable to a variety of health problems, he seems to have already begun to adapt to his situation. He walks in the shade of his mother, and since the herd was found in an area with water and trees, hopefully the baby will learn to cake himself in mud or take refuge under available trees.
I figure the little guy’s gonna make it. Elephants are smart, and this one already seems to have figured out that the sun can hurt him. Let’s be honest, he’s also pretty cute.
Apparently the drug used to treat glaucoma makes eyelashes grow longer, thicker, and darker. Now it’s being used solely for that purpose. Yes. You can now apply chemicals and drugs to your eyelashes to make them more like Audrey Hepburn’s (which were fake). Can anyone think of a better use for medicinal research funds?
Great shots of the volcano in Alaska that blasted off this month!
I bet this guy has trouble getting life insurance! Kevin Richardson is an animal behaviorist who plays with lions. He has developed such a relationship with the lions that he rolls around with both males and females. The females even let him pet new cubs, a miracle considering how protective lionesses are. I think he’s an insaniac, but super cool.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Check this out!!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The IARC studies and ranks cancer risks.
Category One risks are known carcinogens such as asbestos. Night working now sits just one rung below that: a probable cause of cancer.
One of the reports, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, showed a 36% greater risk of breast cancer for women who had worked night shifts for more than 30 years, compared with women who had never worked nights. This evidence supports the hypothesis that melatonin production may be impared by changing sleep patterns. Melatonin, in turn, has some beneficial effects in preventing some of the steps leading to cancer.
And if yet another risk of cancer doesn't get you quaking in your boots, night shifts have been blamed for an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, gastro-intestional problems, low birth-weight babies, and, for women, prolonged pregnancies.
All in all, this article interested me because I'd NEVER heard of such connections. If women are being compensated by a GOVERNMENT for their breast cancer due to working nights, I feel like there must be something to the risk.
Islands Disappear in India
Still think global warming is a "joke", "prank", or "unscientific"? Well, try telling the inhabitants of this island in India. Wait, make that ex-inhabitants. Some islands have completely submerged, while others are well on their way. People have become "environmental refugees" as houses and property are swallowed up by the sea and they are forced to move onto someone else's land. Space is limited and these people, as poor island dwellers, have nowhere else to go. The rate of erosion in India is 3.14 mm/year, where as the normal rate is 1.82 mm/year. So far there are no solutions offered (beyond crowding closer on the island and either starving or drowning).
Hippo Sweat Offers Key to Natural Sunscreen
Sexy Marketing Aims to Boost Toilet Use
Yes, I agree. How on EARTH can a toilet be sexy? Well, some organizations have found a few ways.
And then there is Cambodia, where the Resource Development International Cambodia have made romantic karaoke videos about proper sanitation and hygiene, hand washing, bird flu, and sex slavery. They advertise that hand washing is beautiful and make the connection between hygiene and health. These are shown on national television!
Thanks to programs like these, the toilet has become a status symbol. "It's cool to have a toilet. Be the first person on your block to have one!" Although I balk at social programming like this, and resent the ideal behind the marketing scheme, it seems to have worked. Who is really surprised? It's been working on the "West" for decades!
This just goes to prove that anything is marketable, and that using social pressure can make anything sexy, even a toilet.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
I hate that.
These are some quotes from Curt Rosengren. I have no idea who he is, I haven’t read his book, and he might actually be a terrible person (or a wonderful one). I love some of what he has to say though.
Our most challenging times are the times we need the support of others the most. Reaching out to others can plant a seed of connection that can grow over time and give you a stronger foundation for moving through challenges in the future as well.
Support is a two-way street. The more you focus on helping others, the more potential there is for that support to come back your direction. And it's not just support in challenging times. Helping others is a way to build relationships, and relationships open doors.
When you successfully navigate a sea of obstacles, you gain first-hand experience that you really can deal with whatever comes your way. And when you feel confident that you can deal with challenges, you're more willing to take risks and pursue fulfillment in life.
I lived the mantra that “what is… is” but, as the movie “Australia” says, “what is isn’t necessarily what should be.” I have lost self confidence for a variety of reasons, but foremost is my own submissiveness to life’s rough side. In doing this I have lost some of my passion, the energy that comes from bringing more of ME into what I do, for life.