Archive for November, 2011

A Wonderful Week to be Australian

Today is a day worth celebrating around the world. And no it’s not because it’s peppero day here in South Korea. It’s for two other very important and completely fantastic reasons: progress in Australia on anti-smoking, and progress in Australia on dealing with global warming.

1.) Last night the Australian senate house passed a bill into a new law commanding all tobacco companies in Australia remove corporate logos and distinguishing branding. Instead, they must now colour their boxes of death sticks an appropriately sickly shade of rotten-olive green, and include pictures of the results of smoking.

Despite the negativity of the Sydney Morning Herald’s title in completely burying the story behind twenty-two completely inane stories AND using a negative to start the headline focusing on an unimportant point [“No budget set aside to fight big tobacco”], the word is out. Big tobacco have finally been handed an eviction notice and told to get on with getting out of Australia.

Despite burying the story online, the Sydney Morning Herald gets one thing right: its photo and caption, which proudly proclaims ‘Plain packaging … a world-first.’

Despite the negativity of the first word in the title, the focus on the very secondary aspect of possible legal attack from angry cigarette companies, and the burying of the article on the page of national news, this article is still a great victory, not just because of the importance of the action of the senate in making this bill a new law of the land, but also because this article’s only image is one of cancerous lung tissue, and NOT of someone smoking a bloody cigarette as is all too common in stories about efforts to stop smoking.

This simple exclusion of images of people smoking is in itself unusual, and a victory of sorts. I hope this change continues, including future better days when the current editor of such articles at the SMH is replaced by someone coming from a happier place, being less concerned by potential efforts by cigarette companies to bully governments by using the law.

The BBC’s article has a more carefully neutral, almost-cheerful title, but its photo is of a small range of cigarette companies’ products on a shelf: “Australia cigarette ‘plain packaging’ law passes Senate.”

By far the best of this small set of news stories is by ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) which is, it should be no surprise, independent of corporate ownership and sponsored by the Australian government. Their story contains a clear picture of the subject itself – a cigarette packet in the proposed colour with the new labelling style – and the simple statement of the main fact or point of the story: “Cigarette packaging legislation passes Senate.”

The ABC photo’s caption reads: ‘The legislation bans the use of company logos, and requires all cigarette packets to be a dark green colour.’

2.) The second reason for celebration and congratulations to Australia is for the passing of their awesome new carbon tax this week. It’s not perfect, it doesn’t come into effect until July next year, it’s still really only a pathetic token of what actually needs to be done to get on with saving the world from climate change in any meaningful, effective way, and it probably has many other flaws besides, but, it is a start.

It is a start towards more western countries taking real and moral responsibility for the mess we are all enjoying making of the environment, especially including the atmosphere, as we drive, fly, and consume imported goods, particularly including meat and dairy products. And yes, this is a challenge to farmers and carnivores in New Zealand to maintain and increase our GDP in ways other than those which release the deadly, damaging, methane in quantities higher than previously counted. It’s also a challenge to myself, to deal with the cost in terms of carbon and other gases emitted whenever I fly to my birth-home to see my mum and other family and friends.

ABC has its best report here, including two video clips, and is entitled: “Carbon tax passes senate.”

You’ve had a great week there, Australia. Congratulations!

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Robert Goodland: The Brown Rice Hero

The large man seems tiny up on the huge stage, but his voice booms out over the audience and brings a big reaction as he reads from his list. “Mu, … kimchi!” Some people chortle. “Gakdugi, miyuk guk!” More people giggle. “San yachae dolsot bibim bap!” The audience laughs and claps freely, possibly at the British-Korean accent, and maybe it’s at his relentlessly convincing yet good natured listing of traditional Korean vegetarian dishes.

On the high note at the end of his speech he steps around the podium to face the audience and give a long, low bow. Soon after his presentation I have a rare opportunity to sit down with Robert Goodland, former environmental advisor to the World Bank for 23 years.

JW: How do you do, Dr. Goodland?! Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?

RG: “I’m an environmental scientist, and a tropical ecologist. I worked for the World Bank in Washington DC as their environmental advisor for 23 years and I found the job very difficult because most of what they did was not very good, so I drafted a whole slew of policies which, one by one, they finally implemented.

“For example, they were effectively promoting a method involving deforestation to cure tobacco, which is very bad for the forest and tobacco is very bad for your health, but it was very unpopular to say that the bank shouldn’t give loans for growing tobacco then, which was back in 1979-80.

“I wrote most of the bank’s social and environmental policies; one was on environmental assessment, one on wild lands and biodiversity, but the one I’m most proud of is on indigenous people: vulnerable ethnic minorities. My hobby horse right now is pushing something called ‘FPIC,’ which stands for Free Prior Informed Consent; FPIC as known to the insiders.

“We had a good long struggle for 15 years but now it is enshrined in the UNDRIP or the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which is now exactly five years old. It was circulating for ten years at least, but now even US and Canada and most nations have signed it; the hold-outs were Canada and the US.”

JW: What brings you to Gwangju?

RG: “These days, I’m working on promoting the fact that all our commitments to Kyoto and Cancun and everywhere else can be met if we all go meat-free just 25%. This is because at least 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions are because of the life cycle and supply chain of livestock products (meaning all meats, dairy, and by-products, and the feeding and transport of them from birth through to final end-use).”

[ * Read Dr. Robert Goodland’s study Livestock and Climate Change.]

“The world raises over 50 billion farm animals each year for food and this has a major impact on global warming. This is not just from the cows producing methane in their farts, but also because it leads to the destruction of tropical rainforests and other special places of nature, as farmers chop down old trees to plant grass to grow animals for meat. This means other animals that live wild amongst the old trees face extinction, and soil erosion and depletion and other environmental threats arise.

 “And yet meat is just not efficient to produce, compared to vegetable-type food sources. For example we need 500 times as much land to produce 1kg beef as compared with 1kg vegetables. We need 30kg of vegetation to produce 1kg of beef. Or, to put it another way, protein derived from meat requires 25 times more energy to produce than comparable protein from grain. And finally, with regard the growing problem of water, to produce 1kg of wheat we only need about 250 liters, but we need about 25,000 liters to produce 1 kg of meat!

 “Also, these days more than half of the maize we grow goes to animal feedlots” [massive industrial farms], “while one child dies every 45 minutes from malnutrition-related sickness.”

JW: How has your trip to Korea been going?

 RG: “On this trip here to my wife’s first homeland (in Korea) I’ve discovered brown rice. A question for local people is: Why isn’t brown rice more commonly eaten here?! It’s much more nutritious, and a lot more delicious than white rice!

“I’ve also discovered the hiking trails of Jeju Island. There’s soon going to be an island-wide interlinking network of trails, but for now, though there are only a couple, they are wonderful.”

By Julian Warmington

Read or listen to more by Robert Goodland here.

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What is Movember?

I wanted to check my students knew why I was starting to look kind of strange in class, and, I also wanted them to see what could be done with the simple editing tools available for their great video cameras on their nice expensive cellphones. So, using my clunky, strange (five-year-)old Sony Handycam, I recorded them all one at a time, and then ‘spliced’ the best parts of the clips together and interspersed it all with some ‘annotations’.

It was the first time I’d made a new clip like this. I know it’s pretty basic, but, what do you think about our work?

Movember: a survey. – [click here or on the Early Birds icon]

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