Monday, 26 September 2011

My week of funemployment in Londontown

Monday – I went to see Paul Collier speak at LSE on the topic of Building Effective States
He presented some food for thought regarding the need to start with building an effective tax system.
I particularly liked his comment about how aid agencies can often lead to more harm than good, which is why throwing money at a problem is hardly a solution. Ever. Agencies such as DFID that focus on the most fragile states reduce the incentive for governments of these fragile states to ever improve their conditions.
His ultimate answer pointed to the necessity of GOOD LEADERSHIP.

Tuesday – Film night at Rich Mix about the global food system
I saw a few really powerful short films about the disaster our current food system is leading us to. Some films also highlighted the plight of many small farmers because of the unfair land grabs that are occurring and the unfair rule of trade that allow the agribusiness to make large profits under the guise of feeding the world’s population and yet a billion people are left hungry..and so many more undernourished

Wednesday – Wilfred Madelung (senior fellow of the IIS) spoke about succession in the Qur’an
He was a bit of a mumbler, but I found the discussion on adoption in religion particularly interesting..

Thursday – Went to the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) for the launch of the world disasters report, which focused on hunger and malnutrition
This was very interesting; it was the academic and policy side of the more activist-y event of Tuesday night.
One panelist in particular said that it’s very easy to sloganize from a distance, saying things like “Dismantle the WTO”, but in reality when working on the issues and closer to the issues, there is a tendency to work with these organizations in a more friendly manner, despite knowing the extent of problems they cause
There was also a lot of discussion on politics and power, rather than technical solutions as well as the current famine raging in the Horn of Africa.
And finally “development” in general. – lots of food for thought (no pun intended)
Frustrating and inspiring at the same time. These people seem to understand all the problems, which is good because they are ultimately influencing policy (in theory at least) and yet policies are still failing so many people..

Friday – lunch and great laughts with the few classmates left in London
landed a short-term research assistant position
Research Assistant for a case study examining women’s political participation in Somaliland
Somaliland??! – spent the weekend reading about it

Saturday – Land and freedom camp – discussion on land in clapham common – beautiful park!
Met some people who don’t spend money because they don’t believe in capitalism and therefore do not want to contribute to it. Met a girl travelling to Iran with no money to her name
An outdoor film screening about people living off the land in Britain in the 17th century. Many of the same issues persist today..
Dinner was cooked and served to everyone. Food came largely from skips!
Refreshing in many ways
And then more UCL classmate fun

Sunday – Beautiful day to be outside in Londontown! Caught up with a dear friend, napped in hyde park, covent garden - greenhouse made out of legos, and helped a friend move in to her new residence –new beginnings!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

September 11, 2011

I am opposed to the concept of nationalism for several reasons. I believe it separates people and causes unnecessary conflicts and tensions, based on constructed and often arbitrary boundaries. Furthermore, the nationalistic pride garnered within a boundary is based on an “imagined community” (the concept coined by Benedict Anderson), when in fact there are endless differences among people that belong to the same ‘nation’.

The point of this blog is to reflect on a conversation a friend and I had today over the 10-year anniversary of September the 11th, a day that “changed the world”.

He insisted on wearing his I <3 NY T-Shirt and a large American Flag caped around him.
While I said, “you do what you got to do”, I told him that I thought it was too much.

After some banter, in which he told me he was remembering those that died in the tragedy and wearing his nation’s flag proudly to let people know that He is an American and honoring the victims of the tragic event.

I recognize and sympathize with those that lost family members, friends, colleagues, even acquaintances to the highly undignified and cowardly terrorist acts. However, events such as this happen in many places around the globe and the countless victims that die go almost unnoticed by the world. So, the problem I have with the 11th of September and commemorating the anniversary each year is that it is almost as though we are saying, well the other lives that are lost to terrorist activities are less significant.
Why is it that so much emphasis gets placed on an event when it occurs on American soil?

Ok, maybe this is a bit too critical, but I feel that because we placed so much emphasis on the attacks, it justified going into Iraq, Afghanistan, sending drones to Pakistan, all of which have killed many thousands of innocent lives. So for me, the nationalistic pride (which I have a problem with in the first place) and the solidarity that is brought about came at the expense of creating this “other” and attacking and killing so many lives. To me, this is unjustified.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The need to break from large-scale agri-business

Two factors at play require us to pay serious attention to the issue of food security:
  •    A growing population and its growing food demand
  •  Increasing uncertainty of environmental changes
Both of these factors can be addressed by organic agriculture. This is the way forward, not large-scale modern agriculture that currently dominates farming practices globally.

Modern, large-scale farming has come into existence within the past half century and is characterized by monocropping which is the practice of growing only one crop each year on the same plot of land, the constant and heavy use of chemical inputs, and seeds which produce high-yielding crops, but do not re-germinate. These practices lead modern large-scale agriculture to be highly unsustainable because a) the soil becomes less productive, b) practices are not resistant to shocks, and c) power is transferred from farmers and consumers to multinational and seed corporations.

          a) Soil Degradation

Monocropping is a relatively new farming practice that has replaced traditional methods of growing multiple crops on a piece of land. This repeated process of growing the same crop on the same land is harsh on the soil and causes soil to become less productive.

This soil degradation is enhanced through the increased use of chemical inputs. It is a vicious cycle whereby chemical inputs in the form of pesticides and fertilizers are meant to address soil degradation. But this constant use exacerbates the problem and with each harvest, more and more chemical inputs are needed.

          b) Vulnerability 

Another danger of modern, large-scale farming is that it is less resilient to climate change and shocks. For example, if the crop planted is not drought resistant then the whole harvest is ruined. Likewise, if a pest attacks a crop, it will ultimately attack the whole harvest. Traditional farming methods, on the other hand, respected the diversity of seeds and crops and this diversity of farming allowed a certain amount of safety in the event of a single crop failure.

c        c) Power to corporations

Finally, many small scale farmers are unable to compete, let alone survive in an industry dominated largely by a few multinational and seed corporations, where power is concentrated. These corporations supply farmers with seeds that do not re-germinate. This means that farmers are reliant on seed companies to provide them with seeds each year, rather than becoming self-sufficient. So, in addition to requiring more chemical inputs, which require additional spending, farmers now must also buy seeds each year for their harvests. This takes control away from farmers and places it into the growing agribusiness industry, which strives to make profits rather than ensure food security for the needs of a growing population.

For these reasons, modern large-scale farming is highly unsustainable and will be unable to feed future generations

Saturday, 3 September 2011

This song is getting old

While riding the tube the other day, I couldn’t help but overhear 2 girls next to me, probably in their early 20s speaking about relationship woes. They were talking about a certain boy who seemed interested until the girl started reciprocating and then he lost all interest and eventually would disappear.
And the one girl would comfort the other by saying that she was better and to just forget about the guy and she’ll find someone better in time.
Their conversation could have been the lines in many romantic comedies, advice columns, or talk shows.
It was an all too familiar conversation.
Seriously, it’s just getting old..