Beyond Samba and Soccer

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action, Uncategorized

With the soccer fever at its peak, Brazil the 5th largest country in the world and the largest in South America hosting the mega event, is experiencing disapproval for spending so much money on the sports extravaganza sidelining major priorities like health, education and housing for the Brazilian people.

BRAZIL-WORLDCUP-05-05-2014-03-05-58-454Photo Source: Google

My fascination for this country is not new. It was the first country I traveled to when I was 18 years old. Experiencing the rich culture, the diversity it has to offer, the beats of samba and bossa nova, the magnificent beaches unfolding secrets of the country, Brazil did come a long way after years of colonization and military dictatorships.

Luckily I had an opportunity to visit Brazil again after six long years and to be honest I was welcomed just as before. I felt as if I have returned to a place I knew so well whether it was sitting on Copacabana beach sipping the guarana, going for strolls in Rio or exploring Rio Grand du Sul. Having known little Portuguese I did manage to communicate with the locals and this is what I loved the most about that place. To me Brazil is the many loving people I came across during my visits, listening to their stories and seeing their smiles and resilience made me learn a lot from them.

To be honest seeing the protests on television made me feel terrible. I agree polar extremes exists everywhere but why the insane expenditures on a sporting event. All these governments talk about austerity at some point so why not in sports. Seeing the football nation not happy with “futebol” (football in Portuguese) this time was sad. Football is the religion of Brazilian people and you can see them playing everywhere, in the streets and on the beaches people from various segments of society come together to play. Brazil has won five FIFA World Cup titles hence becoming the most successful national team in the history of World Cup. Interestingly it is the only country that has taken part in all FIFA World Cups since 1930 scoring the most goals and with most wins in the history of competition. The favelas have produced some amazing soccer players and that is the spirit of sports. It brings nations and people together rejoicing in the victory and feeling sad about the defeat. But for the World Cup 2014 in Brazil it is more than that, there is revulsion and discontent seen in many people.

Brazil Confed Cup ProtestsPeople protesting against the World Cup

Photo Source: Google

For the World Cup, Brazil has spared no expenses. For the month long competition there will be 64 matches held in 12 cities across Brazil. The cost incurred on refurbishing old stadiums and building new ones has cost 3.6 billion dollars. After the World Cup several of the new stadiums will be seldom used. If we look at the South Africa World Cup debacle, stadiums that cost a fortune are not being used as people can’t afford it. The displaced persons in South Africa are still struggling for housing. Countries when thinking about hosting such mega sports events should take into consideration their social and economic well being not giving in to corruption along with many organizations and multi nationals associated with it.

This World Cup is undoubtedly extremely costly for Brazil costing 62 million dollars on each match. Moreover displacing the poor, the Brazilian government is holding this event at the cost of unemployed, underemployed and neglected citizens.

EPAPhoto Source: Google

When talking about sustainable development the situation mentioned above does not convey the message of Rio+20 UN Earth Summit. Ironic as it is the country hosting the UN Earth Summit, gathering various UN bodies to talk about Millennium Development and Sustainable Development Goals for the world did resign when it came to staging a short term show which was less about joy and more about profits favoring just a few. The nexus is clear; a portion of the billions spent on cosmetic projects could have cured the ills plaguing the country. Sadly the millions of tourists pouring billions of dollars into the nation’s economy and giving a blank check to the country’s Sports Minister will not benefit the communities that gave us Romario, Pele and Rivaldo nor will it help in improving the quality of life of millions of poor and working class of Brazil.

Now the question is when will the governments start thinking about the millions of poor people in the country and not just give importance to a few billionaires? The Brazilian government could have taken provisions that not only benefited the few billionaires but also the many homeless living in the streets, largely young protesters , coming from working class backgrounds instead of hiding them and their demands from the world’s gaze. Brazil doesn’t need to market itself to the world with a misleading image, thanks to the media these days. A country that promises fun and sun, carnival and sun kissed smiles personifying this beautiful South American nation cannot be hidden from the world anyway.

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Photos Source: cartoon movement.com

I remember reading about the London Olympics in the year 1948 known as the real austerity Games. The government during that time was determined to do the Games on the cheap. Well despite the austerity and so called raggedness it was considered a success and did make profit too. Looking at the economic backdrop from that period we can spot similarities, a world economy in trouble, why certain measures can’t be taken that benefit the larger community especially the segments that suffer the most because of the excessive spending?

Besides the protesting youth the heroes of yesterday like Romaria and Rivaldo coming from humble beginnings to hoist the World Cup in 1994 and 2002 respectively also criticize the government’s exorbitant expenditures. For Romario serving as a congressman in Rio de Janeiro and a World Cup dissenter, the C.B.F (Brazilian soccer federation) is a “disgrace”. According to him corruption in football be it C.B.F or FIFA is the reason for all evil. Yes for all those people coming out in the streets with loud demonstrations, the World Cup is about donning the canary yellow outfit and cheering for their country rejoicing in the much loved game, for them it is not about multimillion dollar stadiums or being sidelined by the social, economic and political injustices.

While trying to get the views of my friends, most of them were just excited about the game, enjoying the reverie like myself. I have also put a facebook profile picture donning the yellow Brazilian T-Shirt. It is not that they are not for sports or for that matter soccer, the reason why most are unhappy is very clear.

“The overall Brazilians could never afford a FIFA ticket; small bars who would transmit the games have to pay absurd fees to FIFA, making it impossible to be done. In a nutshell, this is it. This world cup is not for us, at all, just for some rich alienated foreigners. The nations may be coming together, but at the cost of our blood and homes. If this is the price, I really rather to keep them apart and our children alive.”

 Leticia Zenevich

“They could organize a real world cup, as will be done with the European championship soon. In several countries in stadiums that already exist, so that millions don’t have to be spent on stadiums as in Manaus, that is going to host, how many, 4 games?”

Rodolfo Pedro Sello

“A short term revenue generation /immediate job creating action through a FIFA World Cup vs a long term sustainable development through investment in health n education. You tell me what should be priority and a much more solid option?”

Taimur K Bandey

“General discourse has two general tendencies, these days: 1) Elitist and fewer representatives 2) Non-elitist and more representatives. You are right but for “bigger” picture you need to study about contemporary economic models, of how trillions are spent on defense and when it comes to giving shelter, governments cant find a penny, about how billions are spent in festivals and when it comes to improving social conditions of under-privileged, we can’t find a penny and so forth. It was not event specific. If a World Cup had to happen in Brazil, it should have catered for local sensitivities and address them instead of putting a superficial exhibit of billions lost in entertainment (for the privileged)”

Syed Ali Abbas Zaidi

 The protests clearly demonstrate that this World Cup is not going to be a feast of national unity, putting on a temporary great show setting aside the grievances of many people. Sad to see that instead of becoming a feel good moment of national pride this event was commercially and politically exploited to a great extent.

So who should be held accountable? Definitely the ruling government blinded by the money pouring in for their personal good and these big corporations. FIFA, the Federation Internationale de Football Association, is a non governmental organization founded in 1904. FIFA is responsible for administering the World Cup and other international competitions of international football. The organization located in Switzerland is marred with allegations and accusations of corruption and money laundering. FIFA is also criticized for its lack of accountability and transparency. Seeing the grievances of general public of hosting nations the accountability of FIFA matters when it comes to the business of football and governance of sports. Effective governance of such institutions is important and a matter of general public interest. It is interesting that the wealthy nations preach and talk about democracy, good governance, accountability and transparency but when it comes to practising these ideals we look for backroom deals.

 Just to avoid similar sentiments in the future it is important to pay heed to where the problem lies and try to find a solution. It is not just about World Cup, when it comes to Olympics we see similar behavior filtering out the realities of life. The life of under privileged, we don’t consider important. Yes they are important only during the time of elections, when we beg for their votes, making false promises.

 Time and again FIFA demonstrated that it has no fiscal, hierarchical, supervisory and public reputational accountability. Efforts to reform FIFA from within or as a consequence of public pressure, media and watchdog organizations can result in a positive change.  Moreover as FIFA doesn’t fall under the relevant jurisdiction for corruption policing, accountability needs to be indirectly applied by national and international governments such as European Union or European Council. There should also be a legal accountability through regulation and enforcement of legislation on FIFA’s marketing partners. International Olympic Committee does set a precedent by showing the importance of multiple mechanisms of accountability working in harmony.

 FIFA and the member organizations and confederations do have the ability to be an actual force in change.  FIFA deals with more countries than the United Nations and interestingly these countries are more responsive to FIFA’s policy change than UN. With transparent and good governance in sports things might not look bleak as it look today.

Brazilian-artist-BoneA graffiti artist in Brazil

Photo Source: Google

As FIFA continues to make more money it is time that the demands of the protesters in the streets should be heard too. FIFA needs to be careful in this matter to avoid their legacy being tarnished.  With the growing criticism all the people involved in this show can’t hide anymore behind the false do good publicity stunts.

We are not against sports, we never were. We are against the use of sports as a cudgel of putting an over the top, pompous show. Use of sports as a neoliberal Trojan horse is what we are against. We definitely don’t want capitalism to seep into the things we love including “futebol”. Count everyone in your celebration next time as everyone living on this planet wants to enjoy life.

 world-cup-2014-brazil-soccer-footballPhoto Source: Google

Military Might Dwarfs the World

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, Publications, Regions, Take Action, Uncategorized, Upcoming Events

Recently in Pakistan the budget for the fiscal year 2014-2015 was presented. The budget which begins on  1 July comes in the midst of high inflation, dwindling foreign exchange, never ending power cuts and weak economic growth. Citizens around the country were glued to the television sets hoping to hear some good news but once again they had to face disappointment at the hands of the government’s finance minister presenting the budget in a baroque language which most people couldn’t understand, not everyone living in the country is an economics major. Maybe that was his job as well, not making himself understood.

Special interest groups were peddling for special treatment while the budget priorities were being finalized. The government of billionaires led to the making of few more billionaires but will that be good news for everyone else? What about the rest of 99% of the population? If we continue like this, it will give rise to inequality.

This budget clearly showed inadequate spending on education besides other things. Leaving Pakistan lag behind other countries in education sector it gave priority to the defense sector by increasing 10% in defense spending. The under spending on education, health, energy sector etc has not only created huge disparities in the country but have also made millions suffer in the blistering heat when the temperature rises up to 50C. But why the government representatives care about that because back in the government capital they have unlimited power supply. Moreover whenever struck by a natural calamity or a disease they have their second homes in the rest of the world with the best medical treatment. The only interesting logic I need to decipher is why we the 99% have to pay for their pompous lifestyles. It is our taxes that make them survive and continue to enjoy the glitz and glamour.

51b8a119bc112Men listening to the finance minister presenting the budget in Pakistan

Photo Source : AFP

Without giving any details and by using mumbo jumbo the finance minister did paint a positive picture but anybody not ready to accept the eyewash could picture the reality. With a crippling budget deficit of 8.8 percent, 10 percent increase in defense spending doesn’t make sense to me.  Sidelining the energy crisis, inflation, unemployment, poor health and education, poor economic growth, a whopping billion rupees were allocated for the military.

Corruption, years of mismanagement and under-investment has not only led to a blackout of up to 20 hours a day in the scorching heat but has made these people lose their consciousness, giving in to the to the deity of greed.

In 2013 a report by UNESCO revealed that Pakistan has the second highest number of out-of-school children in the world, the other country in this infamy is Nigeria. On the other hand a comparison of military spending presents Pakistan as a exceptional county. Historically spending 3.13 percent of its GDP on the military makes Pakistan oust Nepal, Kenya and even its immediate neighbours which spend much less on the military. Without any doubt the under spending on education has contributed to raising a society inclined towards illiteracy and fanaticism. Because of decades of neglect in education Pakistan has embraced militancy and extremist ideologies, hence justifying its over spending on the military. Creating the enemies and then fighting them isn’t better than stopping the creation of the elements emerging due to disparity.

So what exactly comprise the military budget? Interestingly there isn’t any agreed definition worldwide. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) military expenditure includes the spending on the armed forces, defense ministries, government agencies engaged in defense projects, paramilitary forces, military research and development, military personnel both in service and retired, military aid etc. Considering the long list of expenditure it makes sense now why so much money is needed on the defense alone. Here the private multinational corporations used for combat are not included. The private corporations sanctioned by the governments don’t want to reveal their sources of funding either. So it is safe to say that the military expenditure has varying definitions according to each country and organization.

Now the question is why do we need to measure the military spending? The information regarding the defense spending is needed by governments, researchers, students, diplomats, non-governmental institutions, international organization like IMF and World Bank, media and the general public for varied purposes. It could be used to analyze government priorities, by comparing spending on the military with other sectors can make us understand the shortcomings of the governments.  It also determines a country’s orientation as militaristic (we need to be cautious in labeling a country as such) or peaceful. There could be various reasons to assess the military expenditure, its impact on economic growth and development as one of the reasons.

The reliability of the data is still questionable. Some countries do make basic military budget available. There are many countries that don’t give any information at all including Somalia, Cuba, Myanmar, Uzbekistan and a few more. The budget presented by the national governments may be subject to a number of problems compromising the international comparability of data. It may also limit a proper understanding due to the economic burden of military on a particular country. While talking about the military expenditure it would be unfair not to incorporate the international arms trade. Governments and corporations cooperate to meet their economic and political agendas with the arms trade.

Foreign and military policies are influenced by the military industrial complex of the powerful countries. Selling arms can help the geopolitical and strategic interests of the governments. Take for example United States, many US weapons are sold to Turkey that have been used against Kurds. This is known as the worst human rights violation and ethnic cleaning since World War II, the US turns a blind eye to the mayhem in Turkey. In return the US managed to set up bases in a key geopolitical location giving access to places in the Middle East.

Similarly in India since 11September, 2001 Kashmir issue, Hindu-Muslim relations and other issues have become volatile. As a result India and Pakistan increased its military spending; the arms dealers are willing to help both the countries. Having obvious political dimensions the government officials from major arms dealing nations are playing a role to see deals through. For the arms dealers this tension between the nuclear equipped nations is nothing but a unique selling opportunity. Making profit to remain in the business is what matters to these dealers.

global-arms-exports

The-countries-that-doubled-military-spending-between-2004-and-2013Photo Source: SIPRI

It is the developing countries that are affected by the consequences of over spending on military expenditure the most is no secret. Warfare and military expenditure have adverse consequences for the development of nations. When talking about sustainable development the arms industries and the need to have weapons is essential to keep in mind. Whom are we fighting and for what? Each other to grab more land and have more power. The military expenditure not only diverts the government for putting resources and money into better use but also reduces the growth rate making it difficult for the governments to reach the millennium development goals. The research departments of International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank found out that when a country doubles its military expenditure the growth rate decreases rapidly resulting in the reduction in the level of income. This makes the developing countries more volatile than the global average.

It could be noted however that the military expenditure is influenced by the internal rebellion. When there is unrest in the country or a civil war going on the expenditure will be undoubtedly elevated. It can be noted that the risk of such rebellion is associated with economic causes; a major risk factor would be lack of development. For developing a safe and sustainable society the most effective strategy would be development rather than deterrence. In a just and safe society the disparity graph is low and everyone enjoys the basic amenities like food, clean drinking water, health and education.

To mark the Global day of Action on Military Spending, the United Nations called on all governments to impose cuts in the military expenditure and boost transparency. The independent expert on the promotion of an equitable and democratic national order of UN also asked the governments to increase investments in nutrition, environmental protection, health and other major sustainable development challenges being faced today. Ironic as it might sound the United Nations itself has peacekeeping forces which are fully equipped. When working on the fiscal budget every democracy should involve the civil society and other sectors of society to determine what are the real concerns and priorities of the population. Here the representatives of the military industrial complex and military contractors should not be allowed to hijack the priorities of the population at the cost of their needs.

The populations everywhere are not very keen on governments going to war. It can be seen during the war on Afghanistan and Iraq. Similarly in the context of Pakistan people in both countries love to visit each other and know each other. It is all political propaganda that has been highlighted to create rift between the two nations. The ruling elite taking decisions for the rest of the population only has its own vested interests in mind when designing certain policies. It is time for the world parliamentarians to implement the will of the people to reduce the military expenditures.

The revenue collected from the population as taxes must be directed towards the promotion of social, economic, political, civil and cultural rights for the promotion of sustainable development.

In 2012 according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, global military expenditure levels were at an all-time high, reaching a total of $1.75 trillion. This is indeed a disgusting amount in a world where millions f human being our living below poverty line, dying of malnutrition, lacking medical care and dying of pandemics.

In a world where the ruling elite is busy in feeding the guns rather than the population it is important to pursue disarmament negotiations in good faith, shifting budgets away from insane weapons production, war –mongering, private persons surveillance and devote it to address global challenges including humanitarian relief, development of a green economy, prevention of pandemics, environmental protection and climate change mitigation and prevention. Such a shift in governments spending is essential in achieving the UN post- 2015 development agenda.

It is surprising to note that not many governments put this crucial concern forward in the context of global socio-economic crisis. The governments have been seen talking about austerity drive but it is important to highlight that the place to exercise austerity is in wasteful military expenditures not in social protection where the governments concentrate. It is essential for the governments to reduce funds allocated to the military as a potential contributor to social and environmental progress. The governments in the developing world should give this a special consideration being adversely affected by it. As for Pakistan instead of reducing the defense budget it increased it to 10 percent in this year.  It is not just an issue of disarmament; it is an issue of sustainable development.

The arms industry should promote greater transparency and be more responsible and accountable. There should be a proper check and balance to ensure legitimate use of weapons and curb illicit arms trafficking. It might be unlikely even to hope for real world peace at this point but it is truly desired by most people around the world.

It can be seen that the military expenditure in major countries is increasing rapidly. The statistics given by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in the diagrams above clearly states the crux of the matter. There are a number of countries that have doubled the military expenditure from year 2004 to 2013. Among the list there are developing nations that will be affected the most by the decrease in the growth rate due to over spending on the military. The governments with the powerful lobbying of military industries aid military industrial complexes. Hence seeking peace via war is a questionable foreign policy.

10352613_875653115795941_2869231750102319682_nPhoto Source: Google

The Drowning Paradise Islands

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Publications, Regions, Take Action, Uncategorized

While talking to a friend the other day, being inquired what am I doing these days I was astonished when he said that you are a Pakistani journalist, write about issues from Pakistan. Interesting as it might sound yes I do write about issues faced by Pakistan but that does not stop me from opening my eyes to the rest of the world. I consider this globe my home and feel passionate to write about other places too. No matter how big or small those places are, just like a small island state Antigua and Barbuda I read about recently. I think I shouldn’t necessarily be from that place to raise the concern which that small island state is facing.

In 1982 this Caribbean small island state, less than one-year at that time, proposed to the United Nations that Antarctica should be considered a global common just like deep-sea bed and should be dealt and managed by the UN for the good of humankind. At that time the concern put forward by Antigua and Barbuda looked vague but now as the polar ice is melting, threatening small islands as they drown the proposition made in 1982 have become apparent. As it turned out Antigua and Barbuda had recently been an independent nation and thus lacking resources to continue to press the case for Antarctica being declared by UN a global common. The few countries given responsibility to decide the future of Antarctica failed to reach a consensus albeit having many discussions over a period of time.

Now there is clear evidence that the pristine condition of Antarctica raised in 1982 in the UN was very valid. Climate change in the Antarctica and Arctic and the ongoing human activity in the region have adverse affects on the small island making them vulnerable to flooding. It is not just small island states many coastal areas of big countries are also facing similar threats. For the Islanders it’s a red flag raised on various occasions, with the rise of sea levels due to climate change they face an unprecedented challenge.

The rise in sea level spurred by glacial melting in the polar regions of the world is an open secret. Burying our heads in the sand won’t let us get away with this issue.  It will only make things worse in the future. Many researchers and scientists have made connections between climate change, human activities and a rise in extreme weather conditions, drawing our attention to an obvious risky situation.

a girl in TuvaluA girl in Tuvalu Island

Photo Source: Google

The recent flooding in the Balkans reported as worst flooding in over 120 years is a case in point. Here it can be seen that it is not just the severity of climate change but the lack of resources to cushion people against the climate related disasters that will determine peoples’ fate.

So what are these small island developing States? There are 51 states and territories classified as small island developing States (SIDS) by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. These small islands developing states are located across Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans including the Caribbean Sea. The climate of SIDS of tropical and sub-tropical oceans is influenced by ocean atmosphere interactions resulting in cyclones, hurricanes, coral bleaching, erosion and inundation of land. Cyclones accounted for seventy six percent of the reported disasters in the Pacific Islands from 1950 to 2004. The climate in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean is dominated by North Atlantic subtropical high and Asian monsoon system respectively. The climate characteristics prevailing in the SIDS and their socio economic conditions make small island developing States most susceptible in the world to climate change.

Considering the fact that SIDS produce extremely low levels of greenhouse gases suggests that they will suffer unduly from the damaging impacts of climate change. Already facing similar sustainable development challenges like low availability of resources, vulnerability to natural disasters, dependence on international trade and small population the small island developing States suffer from costly administration and public infrastructure with weak economies.

The small island developing states are already experiencing the adverse affects of climate change with the sea level rise impacting the economies. The potential threats have made some islands like Kiribati, Maldives and Tuvalu uninhabitable. Changes in precipitation affecting drinking water and agriculture, sea level temperatures affecting fisheries and the extremities causing damage to the infrastructure have forced communities to leave putting the nations’ sovereignty at stake.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted in 1992 that was ratified by 195 parties has a role to play. The Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC, no more effective, was a treaty making it binding on the industrialized nations to reduce greenhouse gases emissions. The UNFCCC was there to protect by laying down targets for the reduction or limitation of greenhouse gases in this highly industrialized world.  With various Conferences of the Parties (COP) held in exotic destinations like Cancun, Durban and Copenhagen etc it was seen that all these forums ended up being termed as failed dialogues, even the UN Earth Summit was labeled as a failed summit as no concrete decisions were taken by the powerful head of states to curb the menace of climate change. Now we have to wait till 2015 to see if there will ever be a significant step taken to resolve the issue or at least try to be honest about it.

With all these conferences and summits being held in a safe and luxurious environment every year, the Islanders are still facing the threats unaware that their future is in the hands of a few. It makes no difference in their lives whatsoever. Far away in the island of Kiribati many might not even know of UNFCCC or what this Kyoto protocol is all about.

Kiribati, pronounced KIR-e-bass, the local version of Gilbert, an island nation in the Pacific Ocean will start to disappear in 2030 according to some researchers because of the rising seas. Where will the people of Kiribati go? Many Islands face the threat of drowning not just Kiribati. I remember once being enchanted by a magical dance performance by the people of Samoa and Fiji, always smiling. The happy people of these various Islands deserve to be protected not letting the greed of a few wipe them out of the face of earth.

drowning-kiribati_i-bwi_3Island nation of Kiribati on the verge of drowning

Photo Source: Google

The President of Kiribati, a nation of 33 islands, Anote Tong has already started lobbying other nations to begin accepting his inhabitants 103,000 in number as climate refugees. He is also urging industrial nations like US to do more to control the rising tides. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, 68 percent of the carbon is emitted by half of world’s population, wreaking climate hardships on smaller countries. The leaders of industrialized nations have been quiet and resisted to pay attention and come to aid for the societies at risk.  China became the world’s top carbon emitter in 2007 due to the rapid development. Similarly US, India, Russia and Germany are contributing to the unpleasant fate of the SIDS.If scientists are right in their estimations, the ocean will swallow the island nation of Kiribati sooner than it seems. Water expands when it warms and lately the oceans received alarming amounts of melted ice.

The oceans are absorbing 15 times faster heat than the last 100,000 years according to some recent studies.  Before drowning though the islands will experience the poisoning of its inadequate supply of fresh water. The apocalypse can come sooner for Kiribati if the storms like the ones that struck Philippines and Haiti strikes the island. These are some reasons that will led to a mass migration forcing 103,000 citizens of Kiribati to leave their land resulting perhaps in the first migration due to global warming rather than famine or war.

The president of Kiribati is visiting various places in search of a place to move his people. No country so far has expressed interest in accommodating the people of Kiribati that is very much obvious when it comes to migration. However in Fiji the president of Kiribati has bought 6,000 acres of land to accommodate the inhabitants, apparently to the dismay of Fiji’s military rulers. It is sad to see that there is not enough room on this planet to accommodate some inhabitants of this world.

The inhabitants of Kiribati have lived peacefully with their surrounding for the past 3000 years. The ocean met their needs for food and the atolls gave them coconut palms, a reservoir gave them fresh water making them invisible to the world. Some historians believe that the people of Kiribati descended from the migrants from Indonesia. The invaders from Samoa and Tonga also mixed with the locals over a period of time. Surviving Japanese and British invasion one can see the remains of the war like a massive Japanese gun placed on one of the islands of Kiribati.  The Gilberts got independence in the late 70s when the British mining companies took the last guano deposits from the islet of Banaba, leaving Kiribati in a half developed state. Besides the sea level rise and saltwater inundation Kiribati is facing a crippling disease burden. There are other problems that plague the nation including many diseases that afflict hundreds like leprosy, tuberculosis and diabetes.

In an interview the president of Kiribati said that the Obama administration does care about the issue but there are people in the Congress allergic to the term climate change. He said he wants those people to visit Kiribati before it’s too late. When in need we always look for help from the privileged ones and the ones who are satiated have a huge responsibility to act conscientiously when faced with certain challenges. In a way the powerful nations when asked for help do have constraints whereas in reality these powerful nations are the cause of most problems being faced by the SDIS more or less. The sea level rise that has affected the entire cycle causing various problems is undoubtedly the result of high carbon emissions by the powerful nations.

Just like Kiribati Tuvalu is another island, the fourth smallest country in the world which most of us haven’t heard about. The anonymity of these islands will surely to come to an end when they are wiped from the face of this planet attracting the media craving for bad news. It is sad to know that in my life there will be places in the world that will become non-existent. The entire countries like Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Republic of Marshall Islands and Maldives are particularly at risk of extinction. Most coastal communities face similar environmental struggle especially these places whose inhabitants are living at sea level. I have never had the opportunity yet to visit these paradise islands though I wish that I get to see these islands thriving with life instead of mere remnants left from a haunted past.

While searching on Google about the small island developing States I did come across many stories from the Islanders themselves crying for help to the international community. I also read stories of relocation of villages in many places. For the islanders it is not about survival, they will be finished if drowned. Struggling to get asylum in other places many Islanders did admit that they don’t want to leave their home as their spirits live here.

It’s safe for many of us to say that we haven’t heard of these places. Some environmental activists are struggling to put the concerns of the Islanders forward in all those posh UN conferences asking for action. But to be honest when it comes to policy development and industrialized nations taking action we fail again and again. We are doing the same things again and again expecting different results, Einstein rightly called that phenomenon stupidity.

Keeping our greed aside and letting all this stop is in our hands. Today it might be people of Kiribati but tomorrow it can any one of us saving ourselves from the floods caused by the unending greed of those hidden faces who have the authority to decide our future. They are the ones who are there to determine whether we should live or die.

Kiribati a nation that barely contributes to climate change will be losing everything because of it, they have to suffer not because of their own mistakes but because of the mistakes of others. I want to ask all these world leaders a question. What did you do in Copenhagen, Cancun or for that matter Brazil? These leaders leading nations are accountable to the people they represent.

Children Play amongst dead breadfruit trees in KiribatiChildren play amongst dead breadfruit trees in Kiribati

Photo Source: Google

What is LOHAS?

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action

 While researching on various aspects of sustainable development I recently came across an acronym which people involved in the green movement have been tossing around for a while. I have been involved in the green movement but as a relative newcomer this acronym came as a surprise to me. So to avoid further suspense this acronym was none other than “LOHAS”. Coming up with new movements and trends it is impossible not to have new phrases and acronyms in our daily lexicon. Becoming a hottest trend within companies and consumers across the globe LOHAS stands for Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability.

Once I googled LOHAS I soon discovered that this term was coined in late 1990s.  LOHAS refers to segment in the market that is focused on environment, healthy lifestyle, sustainable living and social justice.  It incorporates the businesses and consumers alike. There are a number of industries, corporations, products and activities that are designed to be eco-friendly, sustainable and healthier for the planet as well as people. It can be seen as a growing movement where the LOHAS consumer keeps in mind the values and belief systems before making their purchase. A common example of this can be the emerging trend of organic food though its buying power is limited in the hands of a few. Moreover the LOHAS movement still needs to further assimilate in the markets not limited to few places and people.

Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability is built on the work of a sociologist Paul Ray who undertook extensive research in the mid 1990s in United States. He found out that 25 % of the US population could relate to the concepts of sustainability, health and social justice and how they desired to live their lives.  The 25% of US population was termed as “Cultural Creatives” by Paul Ray describing them as leaders of cultural change. LOHAS defined the emergence of a global trend based on conscious choice in a wide range of industries. However it was difficult to define this cultural phenomenon from the market perspective. Encompassing things like organic foods, eco-tourism, alternative medicine as well as energy-efficient appliances and solar panels. LOHAS describes the marketplace for such products and services and the consumers who buy these.

It should be noted that the known LOHAS market is limited to few developed countries and it still needs to reach the developing world. The trend however has seeped into many places where a level of consciousness has pushed certain type of consumers to spend money on products that are produced in a sustainable way. Hence LOHAS besides being a market segment limited to few countries is a growing awareness where people worry about the environment and want their lifestyles to be eco-friendly. This has given rise to corporate social responsibility too, which didn’t exist few years ago, making corporations responsible for environmental protection during manufacturing and also looking after the workers’ rights.

Even today the big businesses fail at times for example the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh that led to a loss of thousands of lives is a case in point. There are many other incidents both reported and unreported around the world that should be kept in mind when looking at the progress of Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability. This does not mean that we should undermine the little efforts but we have a long way to go.

When it comes to organic food which is just one aspect of LOHAS it should be noted that the organic products cater to a certain segment of society, those who can buy it. There must be an extra effort behind the production of organic food without using pesticides but it also limits the buyers. It would be great if healthier options are available to the consumers from various segments of the society depending on their income. The approach of catering the elite class will not save the world as the majority has the power to bring change not a small percentage of population. There is a need for policies that keep in mind the values and belief systems of LOHAS targeting a greater number of population, only then will it be fruitful.

certified-organic01Photo Source Google

It is not a secret that organic food helps protect the environment, minimize soil degradation and optimizes the productivity and biological diversity resulting in healthier lifestyles. But what about the higher cost of organic products? For some people eating organic food and buying organic products is not feasible as it costs more. Here in Pakistan there are barely few shops selling organic products and products like wheat and oil can be three times the price when labeled “organic”. To advocate the importance of buying organic products it is also important that they are sold at reasonable prices so that more people can make better choices.  In some developed countries there might be more options to choose from keeping in mind the healthy choices and budget.

While ushering in spring, we can also think about growing our own food. There might be certain constraints but it is not impossible. While living in Germany I met a very interesting girl almost my age, in her early 20s, when I asked her whether she has a Facebook account so that I can add her when I leave. She said no, that not only came as a surprise to me rather it came as a shock. How can anyone not have an account on Facebook? But later I realized that she was very much living in the real world. Baking her own whole-wheat bread in the morning, it’s appetizing aroma spreading across the building to making her organic tea from the herbs picked from her kitchen garden. She had made a door bell herself too instead of an electric one. And yes I can’t forget borrowing her bicycle which was her favorite mode of transportation. Unlike me preferring a car to travel around and not caring where the food products are coming from, whether it is eco friendly or not. I was inspired to see her lifestyle which she developed out of love for mother nature nothing else, she didn’t know about LOHAS. Making sensible and conscientious choices is the responsibility of everyone.

Awareness has led to a lot of consumers paying attention to claims such as organic, green, eco friendly, environmentally safe and sustainably made. However it is easy to make a claim and difficult to prove it which leads to a lot of people misled about various environmental attributes associated with the products. The marketers have the responsibility to use correct terminology in packaging and promotion for the consumers to better understand it.

Just like trade commission operational in some countries to protect the interests of consumers, green guides should also be provided to consumers providing a list of definitions of terms like ozone friendly, biodegradable, carbon offsets , recycled and other related terms. The various certifications and seals are important only if they give you enough information and are backed by solid standards.

It boils down to the question, are you adopting LOHAS? Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability might be a swift growing consumer trend but are you really living LOHAS?

The big multinationals are claiming to go LOHAS such as The Body Shop or Cadbury. The Body Shop, founded in 1976 pioneered in volunteering where The Body Shop employees had to volunteer for a month about a cause they chose like fair trade or recycling etc.   In many ways they paved a way for “conscious consumerism” movement. The Body Shop realizing that human rights and environmental responsibility are interlinked, to build a sustainable supply chain stepped up it’s efforts, focusing on promoting sustainable alternatives that can improve living and protect the forests too. Moreover the fair trade logo seen on some chocolate bars like Cadbury dairy milk’s bar means that the farmers from developing countries are looked after when it comes to them being fairly paid. Nike is also making organic sportswear and claims to become a responsible global citizen. Nike also adopted some good practices over a period of time when it realized the unfair work practices. Similarly Ford is producing hybrid SUVs. The big corporations everywhere should become part of the LOHAS market as it will not only let them join the green population trying to make a difference but can also help them boost their sales.

According to a research institute based in US known as Natural Marketing Institute nearly third of the US population adopts LOHAS values based on social concerns and environmental safety. Considering the world is not just comprised of US, Japan, Taiwan or Western Europe that are the recognized LOHAS markets. This global trend needs to have a greater outreach where businesses and governments are taking necessary steps to adopt LOHAS.

On an individual level creating awareness is a step forward. Learning about LOHAS, it’s concerns, priorities and values can also help people to make better choices. It does not only centre on buying green products rather by taking small steps like saving energy, reducing carbon footprint, recycling and saving water also makes you part of the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability community.

Starting from personal development by seeking out new experiences and learning one can start taking interest in mind-body-spirit connections by taking yoga and meditation classes to exercising regularly. It is about seeing the connection between our own health and health of the environment.  The small steps taken on an individual level can contribute to LOHAS. If we look at the mode of transport, depending on the vehicle an annual commute will release two to three tons of greenhouse gases. Using public transport or bicycle depending on the distance is a better choice. Bicycles have a tiny manufacture and carbon footprint. Again keeping in mind the deplorable infrastructure in some places and long distances people do end up using cars. But if you have an option to choose from, go for it. Simplifying one’s lifestyle is related to sustainable living focusing on what you need rather than what you want.

Growing your own food if you have enough space is also a positive step. Nothing tastes better than the vegetables from your own kitchen garden. Growing your own food gives a productive physical activity letting you distress yourself get fresh air and sunlight. It also enables to clear one’s head. When you grow your own food you don’t worry about the contamination and in the end seeing the seeds blossom under your care gives a sense of pride. It helps reduce wastage of food which we can’t afford in this era where many are without food and shelter. Even if you don’t have a backyard or a kitchen garden you can still grow your own food. By taking pleasure in this hobby while contributing positively to the environment is fulfilling and satisfying. At home one can save energy by switching off extra lights; we should admit that we do sometimes neglect that. Similarly recycling at home can be done by utilizing the empty bottles and jars for storage etc. We can also save water and avoid the wastage of water at homes. By taking these small yet valuable steps on an individual level enable us to contribute positively.

Embracing eco awareness and sustainable lifestyle has a positive impact on the people, communities and environment. Sustainable living besides seeking to optimize the use of natural resources also includes reuse. It is a system of living where people become producers rather than consumers only. It does take time and patience to practice a sustainable lifestyle. Passionate about saving the planet we can make it a reality. The only outcome of sustainable living is health.

Developing a sustainable living does require practice and time. With the passage of time these useful habits of sustainable lifestyle becomes a routine. I still sometimes use canned spinach from the grocery store when the season is not right for the homegrown spinach. I still eat fruits that I can’t grow myself. But whenever I switch off extra lights or give extra care when using water or recycle at home I take few steps closer to sustainable living. For my grandparents these practices were practically second nature. With the technological advances our generation first needs to unlearn and then learn to live sustainably. It will be a journey of learning things that are no longer common knowledge and have been nearly forgotten. It is true that we are learning with the passage of time. We have a long way to go but with awareness we can surely make it.

 imagesPhoto Source Google

Time for LOHAS Quiz- How LOHAS Are You?

Take this quiz from the researchers at the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI) to find out whether you’re living LOHAS. Answer the questions with rarely, sometimes or usually, then add your points to see which segment you’re in. If you’re response is rarely, give yourself 1 point; for sometimes, give yourself 2 points; for usually, score 3 points.

  1. I care about maintaining excellent physical health.
  2. I care about protecting the environment.
  3. I care about sustainable agriculture practices.
  4. I care about using renewable energy sources.
  5. I tell family and friends about the benefits of purchasing environmentally friendly products.
  6. I care about women’s issues.
  7. I care about social consciousness.
  8. I prefer to buy products from companies whose values are like mine.
  9. I like choosing environmentally friendly products and services.
  10. I’m willing to pay 20 percent more for environmentally friendly products.

26-30 Points: You’re a LOHAS consumer. You care deeply about the environment and society, and you act on those behaviors. You likely buy a lot of organic foods, drive a fuel-efficient car and live in an eco-friendly home. People look to you for advice and information on the environment and society.

20-25 Points: You’re a NOMADIC. You care about some of these issues but not all of them all of the time. You take action in some parts of your life but have not totally adopted a LOHAS lifestyle.

15-19 Points: You’re a CENTRIST. You are slightly more conservative than your LOHAS and NOMADIC peers. While some of these behaviors and ideas appeal to you, they are not top priorities in your life.

10-14 Points: You’re an INDIFFERENT. You are committed to other immediate concerns in your life and don’t think a great deal about the quality of the environment and society.

The Minor Workers on Labor Day

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Publications, Take Action, Uncategorized

It is ironic that on 1 May I witnessed something that was contrary to the reason why we get this day off here in Pakistan. Considered more of a break rather spring holiday when government and private organizations, educational institutions and markets remain closed, 1 May is celebrated across the world as an International Labor Day.

Sipping my chilled drink casually I happened to have a glimpse of another family sitting right next to our table. One striking and odd happening I noticed was that two little girls were accompanying them as their domestic help and were asked to sit away from their table. They must be about 10 to 12 years of age and were there to look after the kids in that family, carrying their belongings.

My previous article was on education for sustainability and how important it is for young children to be educated as they are our future. No doubt it is one of our basic rights to get quality education. I felt uneasy seeing what was happening before my eyes and at the same time I felt helpless too. Writing about various human rights and problems of the world I couldn’t do anything to stop them from doing what they were doing. I just had to filter this reality and move on. I feel guilty even today. Those two girls into domestic labor are not the only ones, there are many hidden from our eyes working in the factories, at home, picking rags and begging on the streets. It does make me question that when I am writing about the right to education don’t I include them? All those millions of children with an uncertain future not even knowing or caring what sustainability is all about.

May Day, Labor Day or International Workers Day recognizes the efforts of the working class. It acknowledges the hard work and sweat which they pour into the lives to keep the cycle going. And then there are those children who shouldn’t be working but work to feed their families. I once thought that there might be an international day condemning child labor but I didn’t want to wait for the day to write about it.

 UQB

Photo Source Google

When we are talking about a sustainable future we need to keep in mind the ulcers that plague the society, child labor being one of them. Here we did get to see many advertisements commemorating Labor Day and it being a national holiday many shows were dedicated to it. Then why it failed to create awareness on the simple issue that children shouldn’t be allowed to work, here I am not talking about kids working in the factories or kids begging on the streets but domestic help. It is a choice which that family had to make and they not only conscientiously went for it rather segregated the girls and made them sit away from the table where they were eating. In Pakistan child labor in domestic service is very common. Domestic work is usually done by female domestic workers. These children do not go to school, work for long hours and are separated from their parents for long periods. These children often face the risk of physical or sexual abuse from their employers.

The employment or hiring of anyone below the national minimum working age is known as child labor. According to ILO 2010 report there are 215 million children around the world involved in child labor.  Because of the lack of data it is difficult to estimate the magnitude of child labor in many developing countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam to name a few. The problem of child labor is not only limited to developing economies. Many reports evaluate the severity and frequency of child labor in more than 197 countries. The shocking aspect is how widespread child labor really is, with numerous countries at a high risk.  A report classified UK as medium risk with rate of child labor incidences just 2% lower than that of Pakistan, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.

The root cause of various problems including child labor no doubt is economic disparity. If we want a better future for the world we need to take along the impoverished segments of the society. It is important to attack the structural causes of inequality, rejecting the autonomy of financial markets that are solely based on personal gains to solve the world problems.  It is also important to fully understand the complexity of this issue pertinent in the world today. Developed nations mostly grow up with the notion that every child has a basic right to education. The basic right to have a childhood is also stressed upon. Hence it is mournful that every child doesn’t enjoy this period in one’s childhood. It is also important to highlight that every family has a right to life and to live we need money. Every individual has a right to work and make a living to be able to survive. Looking it through the window of child labor these two rights are at odds. Sometimes in order for the family to survive the children tend to help out sacrificing school.

balloonBangladeshPhoto Source Google

Considering it’s poverty that is the triggering factor, when working towards the Millennium Development Goals the unequal distribution of wealth and the monopoly of few economic giants should also be taken seriously. The concentration of world’s resources in few hands is the root cause of most of the problems clearly. In today’s world we do come across many charity organizations working simultaneously and many nonprofit organizations voicing similar concerns but in the end it is the powerful that maintain control not letting anyone or anything break its strongholds. The mindsets based on profits have been affecting millions and a dire need of a holistic approach is needed to face the monster of inequality.

Keeping in mind Agenda 21 that talks about eradication of poverty in order to increase production and sustainability to meet the needs of world’s majority seems a distant dream at the moment. Connecting the dots is important; in order to build a better future we need to invest in the present. That does not only include monetary investment rather an investment of our time to think and to feel the need to take action. Children are our future, we need to invest in them and make sure that they get their rights. That doesn’t mean that I am looking forward to a cataclysmic change but yes I do look forward to see the decision and policy makers taking serious measures to put a full stop on this.

Pakistan is among 10 nations where children are freely exploited. The government agencies have failed to deal with the problem and stop the increase in child labor both at homes and industries. For the parents struggling to make ends meet education is not their priority sometimes parents themselves sell children into labor. Here the issue of child labor is on the rise. Sadly many laws passed by the government are not enforced properly. There is a need for accountability. Child Labor especially child domestic labor no doubt has become a global phenomenon but just like every other issue it is the developing world or the marginalized segments that are affected by it the most.  According to ILO many countries in Sub Saharan Africa are a leading concern including Ivory Coast, Ghana and Mali. It is no secret that many young children are made to work in picking cocoa.  West Africa grows cocoa as a commodity crop primarily for export. With the rise of chocolate industry over the years, the demand for cheap cocoa has also grown. Many cocoa farmers resort to child labor. Surrounded by intense poverty the children of West Africa begin working at a young age many are sold to the traffickers and farm owners. Once taken to the cocoa farms the children are exposed to dangerous work environment and deprived of education. Many as young as the age of 7 have been seen working on the farms. The bags they often carry are bigger and heavier than the children themselves. Using dangerous tools to expose the cocoa beans these children don’t even know the taste of chocolates which the privileged enjoy bragging about the brands of chocolates. Exposed to various chemicals and insecticides these children cannot even complain. This unfair trade still continues today as I write though the levels may have been reduced still little progress can be seen in this trade making the reduction insignificant.  Violating ILO labor standards it has short term and long term effects on the lives of children. They have little hope to break the cycle of poverty. The governments of West African countries lack the resources and commitment to investigate the violation of labor laws. In addition to the chocolate industry the textile industry of Brazil, Turkey, Paraguay, Bangladesh, China, India Burkina Faso and many others in the list use a large number of child laborers.  The apparel industries also engage young children during cotton cultivation. Similarly in the sports, footwear and leather industry child workers are working in huge numbers. There are many factories in the world today that have employed children like cloth, sports goods and other factories. These factories should be held accountable and there should be a proper check and balance ensuring that these practices are not in the supply chain of these factories. To eliminate child labor putting controls in existing businesses is essential. The policies and procedures should be in place and communicated well monitoring and improving labor standards. Prevention no doubt is better than cure. The optimism shown by ILO in some reports saying that we are moving in the right direction is inapt. There is a need to speed up the efforts engaging governments and policy makers to enforce effective laws making it illegal for young children to work.

child-labour1Photo Source Google

However this again points out to the crux of the matter and that is poverty that pushes for such bizarre actions. Economic growth is a requirement for sustainable development. Seeing the expression “sustainable development” everywhere these days does make one think what exactly it is about? Is it really possible to pursue sustainable economic growth without harming the environment and the societies? Does it mean that if we are pursuing prosperity today we are putting the future of our children and grandchildren at stake?  Seriously working on the issues of sustainable development including economic growth in developing countries, corporate social responsibility and other issues using real world examples in important.

Understanding the complex relationship between economy, society and environment keeping in mind the global inequality should me our main concern. The consequences of unchecked and badly managed development are costly, irreversible and negative. Sustainable development does give us a new way of thinking to manage human impact on the world. An impact that can generate lifelong benefits for everyone, giving million of children around the world a chance to be children and not some cogs in a machine. Eliminating child labor and improving conditions must be a collaborative process including all stakeholders taking on responsibility.

Everyone has their part to play in this including governments, nonprofit organizations and consumers. The worry stricken faces of the girls I saw that day are vivid in my mind.  All the individuals before hiring help, just like the family I watched, should be aware of the role they can play. It is high time we turn the childhood dreams into a decent future. There is a need to develop a multi-stakeholder response system that guarantees the protection of all the children especially the ones facing economic and social challenges. However we should not forget that it is illegal for children under minimum age of employment to work emphasizing and ensuring that children below minimum age enjoy their childhoods in school. Protection in the law and its practice safeguarding young workers should also be emphasized protecting them from abuse and exploitation at work place. These various days celebrated to highlight the importance of issues are not about having a day off to relax, it is about taking out time to think and instead of looking for just one day to feel obliged to think on one particular issue we can do it every day. We need to be informed and we need to be humans.

Knowing Green in Schools

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, Books & Magazine, E-Magazine, General Information, Green Economy, News, News & Updates, Take Action

Comprising half of the population, young people under the age of 25 have an important role to play in the present and future state of the planet Earth. Civilization risks destabilization if young people are misdirected towards violence, viciousness and unsustainable consumption.

For the success of Agenda 21 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that highlight the significance of equitable access of education for all, it is important to ensure that favorable steps are taken for measurable and clear post 2015 education goals. Education is not only seen as a development goal in its own right but an important catalyst to reach other development goals. Educating young people from the primary level about sustainable development is also essential to speed up the process. The young people of today are our future. Many children today are oblivious to the role they play in society. Their lives mostly are centered on family, home, school and friends. At this stage they are unaware and might not understand how their actions affect the world around them. From a young age they should be taught the basic values of environmental protection, development and how they can act as agents of change not undermining the role they can play. With the favorable and right information, children will find it fun to go green. Recently the concept of green schools has emerged in many places. The green schools stress the importance of environmental protection focusing on Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. It is noteworthy though that it should not be limited to specifically three Rs rather can extend to Respect, Repair, Reflect and Refuse too as has been pointed out by some environmentalists. There has to be a paradigm shift in the accepted models expanding the outreach keeping in mind the differences and focusing on the commonalities which we share as global citizens.

Green schools initiative that has been implemented by some schools around the world that integrates efforts that make schools environment friendly and involve children thinking about issues pertinent for the community in the context of sustainable development. Various programs have been implemented by some schools but still a lot needs to be done when it comes to curriculum development related to education for sustainability at all levels.

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During Nektarina’s My Green Planet Competition

Inculcating in young children the importance of planting trees, saving water and electricity etc through fun activities definitely encourages them to develop a world view that is beneficial for future generations. However it is important to bring to consideration the fact that in many places even access to basic education has become a luxury that jeopardizes quality education. Here governments play a vital role to step in and work on reforms that take up the issue of education seriously. According to UNDHR access to basic education is a right of every child. And sadly many young children today have been denied this basic right. In many developing countries the plague of child labor has ruined the life of many children. There are numerous factors that play a role in this and the biggest factor so far is the economics. This vicious cycle traps many people giving them a future we don’t want. The future we want holds the promise of a better tomorrow and no matter how idealistic that might look, it is not impossible. The only action needed is to put the world in a spinning order by taking necessary measures and steps that focus on a greater common good. By understanding the simple concept of going green not pampering the complexities but knowing and acknowledging that it is indeed exciting to go green and it will save us a lot of trouble in the future.

I just want to share a small initiative from here which was taken in Punjab province in Pakistan with the help of Japanese government. Informal education tools were introduced in some public schools focusing on “value education”. Working in the curriculum development team we had to keep in mind the limited resources and in all subjects be it English, Geography or History we did come up with exercises that broadened the outlook of children. Instead of old school methods of writing everything down on black boards it was about taking children out and play. For example tree planting activities not only informed them about the entire process of photosynthesis and components of soil but also made them aware that it is fun to go green. The only reason I share this experience is because sometimes it is not entirely about money. It is about the passion that we all need to ignite in each one of us to contribute positively in whatever small way we can. There is a dire need of conscientious citizens of the world who love the planet and consider it home. It should not be about the fines we pay if we litter or break a signal. That consciousness can save our future generations.

The involvement of children and youth in environment and development is critical to the long term success of Agenda 21. Providing access to education for all citizens will not only help to curtail poverty but will also promote economic growth and pluralism. To engender the core values needed for sustainable societies it is important to integrate sustainability into education for children and young people. Essentially transferring the skills, knowledge and values will enable children to understand diversity in societies, respect for others and natural resources of our planet. Education for Sustainable Development that originates from Agenda 21 helps circular and green economy by bringing together various approaches to education and trainings that equip children and young people with initial knowledge, values, rights and skills to work towards a just and sustainable society. Teaching children about sustainability ensure global citizenship and productivity that let them adapt to climate change and reduce their vulnerabilities to disasters. It prepares them to face the challenges being faced by the world currently and try to come up with creative solutions.

 

My Green Planet Competition

A sustainable society encompasses the impeccable model where every child in present and future generations have an access to basic health care, food, safe drinking water, education and safe environment to grow, contribute and learn. This ideal society also ensures that it is free from pollution, contamination, violence and dangers of disaster. During the fragile period of childhood a child is vulnerable to stress including conflicts, economic crisis, climate instability and environmental pollution and requires stable surroundings that will help in the emotional, physical and mental development. The neglect of children’s rights has irreparable and detrimental consequences. The prosperity of children acts as a positive development in the way to a sustainable society.

To honor the Millennium Promise that is embedded in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) it is important to accelerate efforts. There is a need for collective responsibility that is not time bound like the promise itself. Post 2015 agenda should center on the rights of children and their well-being. Much needs to be done to meet our responsibility of giving the “MDG generation” a fair opportunity to live a healthy and just life no matter where they come from.

By investing in children we increase the possibility to upsurge collective prosperity, eradicate poverty and move towards equity. Investment in children is a fundamental step to strengthen their productivity as engaged and capable citizens contributing positively to the society and the world at large.

It might sound dogmatic but sustainable development does start with healthy and safe children. Some will definitely agree by arguing that the children of today are the future playing a vital role in shaping a better tomorrow. However in practice the issues related to children and young people often come into the category of “social” issues. It is important to note that issues being faced by children are inseparably linked to guaranteeing economic growth, environmental protection and stable societies. Undermining the role of children would be hazardous to us and the planet we share.

As it has been found in the 2012 report by UNESCO there are 250 million young people including school going children that lack basic literacy. It is promising to note that education has been included as a vital part of the sustainable development framework that is inextricably linked to other development goals but now it is also important to implement education reforms that focus on sustainability starting with early childhood education programs. Sustainable development should be introduced in early childhood education and at other levels. Implementing pedagogy for sustainable development is not common in the field of early childhood education. Many early childhood educators can adopt interesting, appropriate, positive and suitable ways to address the issue of sustainable development which otherwise is seen as a depressing issue that cannot be dumped on young children. However it is important to note that before imparting such a vast concept no matter how interesting and appropriate the approach can be there is a need for a clear understanding at all levels of what is sustainable development. Early childhood education does have a role in constructing a sustainable society. A proper curriculum should be made for children and young people at all levels with the help of educationists, environmentalists and governments keeping in mind the concerns of the developing and developed world.

Many studies have found that the concerns and issues of the developing and developed world vary. In the developing world the basic concern would me child mortality and development during the early years whereas the later might be concerned about curriculum changes to improve the quality of education. The disparities and polar extremes should be kept in mind while dealing with education for sustainable development. It is a challenging task but with a collective effort where all stakeholders contribute positively it is not impossible. It might seem like a long road ahead but each step forward no matter how small the step is can bring us a bit closer to our destination.

Investing in quality education helps to generate immediate and long term benefits across all magnitudes of sustainable development. The development impacts of education do not affect the immediate circle in a positive way but the society as a whole too. Educating children on sustainable development supports action towards climate change. With a better knowledge and understanding children can express a sense of responsibility for the environment as has been seen through some surveys conducted.

Education not only supports action towards climate change but also helps in reducing poverty and supporting child health. There should be a merger of two agendas that are dealt separately including poverty eradication and sustainable development. Both agendas should be tackled simultaneously and both are reinforced by education. Children are not only shapers of the world but also shaped by the world. The core of sustainable development is healthy, safe and enlightened children. Being at the heart of sustainable development children are the foundations of a just and equitable society. When the basic rights and needs of the children especially the most vulnerable and poorest are met a society can thrive. Children are the building blocks of a prosperous society and investing in their education along with other rights yields high and long lasting results.

For the development goals to be truly sustainable and sustained, children rights including the access to basic quality education, equity and MDGs should be fundamental. Ensuring that children have a safe and healthy environment to grow where the risks of social, economic and environmental degradation are minimal is important for the global progress on sustainable development. Recognizing children and young people critical partners for sustainable development being the inheritors of the planet and respecting their voices and participation in needed today. Investing in their education is the foremost step which lets them be critical thinkers not accepting the realities as they are rather coming up with creative solutions, empowering them to be effective problem solvers, advocates and agents for positive change.

It has been shown in the past through experience that young people and children with a better knowledge and understanding of things end up contributing efficiently successfully. To help young children grow into skilled, responsible and capable individuals it is important to have basic education access, their education incorporating the fundamentals of sustainability inclusive of various factors will help us produce effective guardians of the world. The Millennium Development Goals targets should prioritize learning opportunities and education systems that provide quality education including knowledge about the environment and sustainability at large. There is a need of reforms in the current ailing education systems that don’t pay much heed to the significance of sustainable education. Through innovations and potential reforms these existing system can be brought to the cutting edge where the potential of children and young people isn’t undermined.

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My Green Planet Competition

Earth Day Sends a Message

Written by Anam Gill on . Posted in Anam's blog: Global issues, General Information, Green Economy, India, News, News & Updates, Publications, Regions, Take Action, Upcoming Events

  tumblr_lv1vn0FMdo1qek3gjo1_500Photo Source: Google

While watching the movie Avatar for me one striking element in the movie was The Tree of Souls. A giant willow tree the closest connection to Eywa, mother goddess for the Na’vi people of densely forested habitable moon, Pandora. The tree had spiritual significance for the Na’vi people. In the movie the destruction of the Tree of Souls would prove disastrous to Na’vi people as a whole, creating a void that would decimate the race in its entirety. Avatar to me did seem a love letter to the glory of nature and humanity.

You must be thinking why on earth I am talking about Avatar, well the answer lies in the fact that 22 April is the International Earth Day celebrated worldwide in support of environmental protection. . For the first time Earth Day was celebrated on 22 April, 1970 mobilizing millions of people from all walks of life and led to the launching of many environmental movements including Earth Day Network. For some people tree plantation might be an epitome of environmental cliché. But I do believe that a nation’s wealth lies in its rivers, forests, oceans, scenic beauty and wildlife. This is all we have. The biological systems are in fact the whole economy sustaining world’s wealth. With the world now becoming highly industrialized giving preference to cutting down of trees so that big shopping malls can take its place arguing that it leads to development, I somehow can’t fathom this equation of development. Cutting down of trees has led to global warming for which it is important to understand the greenhouse effect. We don’t want to stop economic progress that could give millions better lives. Insisting on sustainable development that combines environmental care, economic growth and social justice is the need of the time. Unrestricted growth cannot be supported by our planet.  

Coming back to the greenhouse gases particularly carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is damaging to the environment. With an excess of these gases by human inventions, the greenhouse effect is accelerating and this is causing the rise in temperature that we have been experiencing in the last two centuries. We might not see a red flag here yet but the effects it has on the environment and the organisms that live in it are detrimental. The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and it’s concentration has hit 402 ppm this month and alarmingly that is the highest level recorded in at least 800,000 years. Doesn’t this lead to raise a red flag? Many plants and animals cannot adapt to temperature changes in the environment letting them to become some endangered and others extinct. The trees play a vital role in the carbon cycle. The more trees we have, the less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the more oxygen there is to be consumed by the species that inhabit the Earth. Wasn’t it the oxygen that makes life a miracle on the planet Earth compared to the rest of the planets? We live in an age where carbon dioxide is profuse in the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide released through human innovations, such as automobiles, industries, and power plants is damaging and we should do something about it before it gets late. More than ever trees play a significant assigned role in the environment and take some of the excess carbon dioxide out of the air. Unfortunately, deforestation does not let this to happen and with millions of trees cut down each year r various purposes, the amount of carbon dioxide is rising day by day causing average temperature to rise. Ultimately this leads to global warming and its effects are evident now.

Someone rightly said better be late than never. If we do conserve our existing supple of trees we can play our part in securing a better future. So no matter how clichéd it sounds planting a tree, loving our natural reserves, protecting it is essential. We need to think about deforestation.

While watching the movie Avatar and how sacred the trees especially Tree of Souls was for the inhabitants did remind me of Chipko (Hugging) movement. Started in early 1970s the Chipko movement was a non-violent resistance through the act of hugging trees and protecting the trees from being cut down.  Using the Gandhian methods, the movement to protect trees with rising deforestation awareness led to peasant women from the village Rani Khet, India taking an action and reclaiming their traditional forest rights. Their actions inspired many others throughout the region at the grassroots level. The movement had spread throughout India by 1980s that led to the formulation of people-sensitive forest policies, which put a stop to openly cutting down trees in the region. The movement originated in 1970s is an inspiration for many environmentalists where a group of women peasants got together to make a difference. Their efforts cannot ne ignored or forgotten. Today while celebrating Earth Day I want to acknowledge this movement that was started in a small village to save the trees. It was started at a time when there was less talk about protecting environment. Loving something does ignite passion in people that can make them do wonders.

Many have united today who feel for trees the same way the peasant women of Chipko movement or Na’vi people of Pandora planet did. Just love it and then you will feel the need to protect it. Among many Earth Day Network did step forward adding another drop in the ocean with a hope to educate and inspire. After the first Earth Day in 1970 many environmental laws soon followed. The various acts made it biding on the law to protect the environment and everything therein. Growing out of the first Earth Day, Earth Day Network (EDN) now works with thousands of partners in 192 countries to positively take forward the environmental movement. Millions of people now participate in Earth Day activities each year that makes it the largest civic observance in the world.

Over the last 40 years, Earth Day Network has executed innumerable successful environmental campaigns on issues ranging from drinking water and climate change to saving the whale and many others. To tackle new challenges Earth Day Network created innovative programs with non-environmental partners that were engaging and participatory. EDN’s extensive activities, whether promoting green economic policies or green schools at home or abroad is concerned do inform populations instilling in them the energy to act for a healthy future for themselves and their children. Working with partner organizations Earth Day Network does provide civic engagement opportunities at local, national and international levels. Earth Day Network works to broaden the definition of environment that is inclusive of well being of an individual promoting a sustainable future. This includes creating green jobs, green schools and protecting the environment by stopping air and water pollution. There is a dire need to raise awareness on these issues when many are blinded by the false definition of development, where the shiny and big industries act as eyewash and an epitome of success and prosperity. By no means does this statement reflect that I am against economic growth but too much of everything is bad, we can’t mess with the nature as it’s results would be detrimental, we have already started to experience it’s wrath and it’s time to be aware and act accordingly.

One of the initiatives that did strike me was Avatar Home Tree Initiative. The reason why it struck me maybe was my fancy for the movie Avatar and importance of tree plantation. And this campaign did reflect that interestingly. The Avatar Tree Initiative was a great success and did exceed it’s original objectives aimed at sustainable development and environmental protection. With seventeen partner organizations together with the dedication of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment thousands of trees were planted in six continents. Involving thousands of people these tree planting projects benefitted tens of thousands of people and continue to profit the global environment and all it’s dwellers. To see such projects flourish and affect millions does give hope. We don’t need to belong to the planet Pandora to feel for the trees. These tree planting projects did develop despite the current challenges of natural disasters and depressed international economy.

To protect environment for all people and protect the natural lands The Canopy Project undertaken by Earth Day Network does catch one’s attention. Planting trees to help communities especially the impoverished communities to help them sustain themselves and their communities is an initiative that deserves praise. Instead of focusing on large scale forestry EDN started by reaching out to local communities keeping in mind the think big and start small approach. It is no surprise that the under privileged needs more attention and help as when the atrocities strike they are the ones most affected by it. Ironic as it might sound nature doesn’t keep track of the rich and poor and no one can be saved from it’s rage. Giving priority to the impoverished communities and making them plant trees to achieve environmental sustainability is a positive step. Trees not only filter the air but also provide food, income and energy thus helping the communities economically too.

The reality is that unpredictable weather patterns are increasing and are more frequent. We have been experiencing violent storms and floods. Trees not only help take excessive carbon dioxide from the air but also help to prevent soil erosion that has led to devastating floods. It is true that first line of defense against global warming is planting more trees. We definitely need to go green and that is why in 2012, Earth Day Network made a commitment with the Global Poverty Project to plant 10 million trees in impoverished areas of the world over the next five years. This commitment needs to become a reality and with perseverance and help from everyone it can become a reality.

The Canopy Project has planted over 1.5 million trees in 18 countries over the past three years. In many states in the US, projects to restore urban canopies have been completed. In Haiti alone Earth Day Network planted 500,000 trees. The earthquakes causing landslides on deforested hillsides that led to horrific devastation in Haiti s known to everyone. In many high poverty districts in Uganda EDN planted 350,000 trees providing local farmers with food, fuel and stability of soil. The Canopy Project of the Earth Day Network has been active around the world. In Australia, Landcare Australia working with national parks and land care groups focused on areas with endangered animal species.  In Belgium, Vereniging voor Bos in Vlaanderen  or Organization for Forests in Flanders worked with private landowners  to afforest their properties to fight the environmental effects of intensive livestock and agricultural production. In Brazil SOS Mata Atlântica Foundation worked with local communities to plant innate trees as a means to restore one of the most biologically diverse Atlantic Forest. In Canada, Tree Canada joined the Avatar Home Tree Initiative to restore pine forest that was devastated by 2005 hurricane. In France,  Kinomé’s Trees & Life program helped young children in southern France to plant their own trees. Kids of the same age in Senegal planted two trees for every tree planted by children of France fostering global reforestation and intercultural awareness. In Germany, The Berlin Energy Agency’s and Club-E  planted trees in southern Berlin as part of its mission to raise awareness about sustainable development among young people. In Italy, San Giovanni community and municipality in Persiceto worked on the Cassa Budrie reforestation project that helped to promote local water security and prevent soil erosion. In Japan a tailored tree-planting at a Japanese school provided students and teachers the opportunity to plant trees on their campus and engage in related green schools activities. In Mexico, Sierra Gorda Ecological Group (SGEG) has been working since 1987. The SGEG worked with local communities and farmers to plant trees directly benefiting local communities restoring watersheds. In The Netherlands, Stichting wAarde or the Earth Value Foundation worked with local young prople to plant trees in Amsterdam and Utrecht. In Spain, Plantemos Para el Planeta planted trees in southeastern Costa del Sol, which was destroyed by wildfire in 2009. In Sweden, Under Sweden’s Skogen i Skolan or Forest in School program, various trees in northeast Sweden were planted by teachers and students.

Supported by and carried out in partnership with nonprofit tree planting organizations throughout the world like some examples stated above Earth Day Network is slowly moving towards it’s goal of planting 10 million trees within the period of five years. Many sponsors and individual donations have also contributed in making this project a success. Working in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme’s Billion Trees Campaign Earth Day Network does wish to contribute positively towards the green movement.

We need to protect our Tree of Souls to continue living in a sustainable world. The Na’vi people of Pandora planet did win in the end. Looking at reality rather than fiction does make me say that we can do that too. Interestingly Avatar was released on Earth Day in 2010 which wasn’t a coincidence. Avatar has inspired a worldwide tree-planting campaign, that involves a million trees in 15 countries and that campaign is The Canopy Project of Earth Day Network. Avatar aligning with Earth Day Network is also a deliberate attempt to press for the need of planting more trees. After the film James Cameron and actress Sigourney Weaver went to the Amazon rainforests and they have been talking about the importance of preserving the environment. Film is an important medium to spread the message using an entertaining tool and it’s about taking everyone along, people from all walks of life to make a positive change.

It should also be kept in mind that narrowing the focus on global warming and losing the broader focus of protecting life on this planet can lead to adverse outcomes. It should be about protecting the forest as an effort to sustain the world’s biodiversity. It is important to look at what is causing the rise of carbon dioxide targeting the current energy system to curb this crisis. It is important to look at all the aspects rather than looking to forests only to solve the current climate crisis.

NB: Nektarina Non Profit is the official partner of Earth Day Network since 2010