One might say this is just a way for some farmers to promote the fruits they produce. One might say these peasants have a great sense of humor. One might say they were victims of a joke done by a clever advertiser with an even bigger sense of humor. One might find it hilarious and post it on 9gag.
But look closely at the clip below.
What do you see? You see a very rich land where everything grows with ease. For many reasons, the people living on it are poor. In fact, Moldova is the poorest region in Europe, on both sides of the border but especially in the ex-USSR half.
So, look closer. You see worn out people who have been blessed with a beautiful land. You see people who cannot buy themselves what they produce. You see people forced to watch their hard work go rotten because no one wants to buy their very cheap fruit.
You see despair.
Why? Is this the way it is supposed to be? Is there no market for them?
If you would like to have a bite in one of Moldova’s organic apples, wave your hands!
Mark and Priscilla Zuckerberg started the month of December with a wonderful letter to their newborn daughter and a pledge to give 99% of their Facebook shares to charity. The news was greeted with applauses by fellow billionaires and generally by the media.
This kind of thinking must be miles away from the one most baby boomers have held dear for decades. This must come as a shock – their grandchildren are nothing like them.
Boomers were the generation born in the wake of Word War II. They knew what it is to be hungry. They knew what it is to live with damaged parents, physically and psychologically. They were handed the remains of the world, had a brief moment of peace&love daydreaming, then put on the black suit and got on with business. They never thought beyond themselves. Previous generations put next generations’ wellbeing before their own instant gratification. Boomers have broken this sacred chain. The post-war generation thought “let’s grab all we can and if hell breaks loose, well, it will probably not be in our lifetime!”. Not only don’t they usually help their children and grandchildren financially, but they expect them to pay for everything. Theirs was the era of banks thriving on loans for everything from education to cars, homes, television sets, holidays, air to breathe.
Millennials on the other hand have only heard stories about war. They were raised in a world of abundance. Technology gave them a sense of virtual togetherness. They consider themselves citizens of the world. And their moral responsibility has grown to match their expectations. In 2014, a survey found that 84% of millennials had made a charitable donation that year, hopefully not only to get a tax refund.
Wait a minute, there’s something wrong with this kind of thinking! People wearing tags and being responsible as a generation for all that is wrong in the world is convenient, but rarely true. Maybe boomers were much like millennials when they were in their late twenties. Maybe all post-war generations are ego-centered. Maybe all peacetime generations are generous. We may never know exactly, although a new world war could help us see clearer.
Meantime, let’s enjoy our new generation of givers! Chapeau Monsieur Zuckerberg.
In the rich part of the world, we know water is a major concern for many people, but we’ve never been in that situation ourselves. Some of us suspect our children might have to face the problem. What exactly is the problem? Here are the key facts to grasp a complex situation, insufficiently covered by the media, with direct impact on all of our lives.
Of the world’s total water supply, over 96 % is saltwater. Of total freshwater, over 68% is locked up in ice and glaciers. Another 30% of freshwater is in the ground and is increasingly used by humans. The rest is in rivers and lakes. Most lakes are in very inhospitable regions such as the glacial lakes of Canada, Lake Baikal in Russia or the African Great Lakes. The North American Great Lakes, which contain 21% of the world’s freshwater by volume, are the exception (1). Rivers are the source of most of the fresh surface water people use, but they only constitute about 1/10,000th of one percent of total water (2).
River water and groundwater are the main sources for human use.
Water is never sitting still: our planet’s water supply is constantly moving from one place to another and from one form to another in what we call the water cycle (2). Here are some simple notions you have to keep in mind: Precipitation creates runoff that travels over the ground surface and helps to fill lakes and rivers. It also percolates or moves downward through the soil to replenish aquifers under the ground (3).
It is estimated an additional 1.5 to 11 times the amount of water in the oceans is contained in the Earth’s interior, and some scientists have hypothesized that the water in the mantle is part of a “whole-Earth water cycle” (1).
The first 11 months of 2015, the world consumed over 4500000 billion of liters (4500 km3) (4), mostly on agriculture. Without the water cycle, the water in the rivers would be totally used by humans in less than 50 years.
Asia is the largest consumer. In the years to come, the regions that will see the most important increase in water withdrawal are Africa and South America (5). Here are some trends for the future, that can be sum up in a word:
The highway to hell
The water cycle was thought to be as permanent as sunrise and sunset. There is unquestionable evidence that several human actions disrupt this natural phenomenon:
intense urbanization, with less and less “green soil” out in the open, prevents water from percolating and renewing aquifers. It also changes the runoff pattern, the water never reaching the rivers or the lakes and ending up in the ocean.
massive pollution rendering water unusable for long periods. One of the latest and most dramatic such cases is the dam rupture and pollution of Rio Doce in Brazil (6). There are also intentional types of pollution – the most important of all being agrochemicals.
over-pumping aquifers and lakes to the point where the refill is no longer possible
virtual water trade: using water to produce something that will be exported. In the U.S., about one-third of the water is sent out of watersheds through this mechanism (7)
climate change – the one we are all familiar with – causes loss of glaciers and modifies the pattern of rainfall
In order to complete the horror show, did you know that drying out aquifers might have a terrifying effect? (7) You may have heard of a seemingly natural phenomenon – sinkholes. Several factors converge in order to form them. Urbanization and massive water pumping are frequently noted among them. See below a dramatic image of a Chinese sinkhole in 2013. Others can be seen in Mexico City and Florida.
Is there a contingency plan?
The short answer is no. There is no public plan for it and mainstream media is generally silent on the question. Why?
Some might say this is proof all this is exaggerated, the threat is in reality milder. It is true, water is still a bargain for the West: the average price of water in the U. S. is about $1.50 for 1,000 gallons (around 3785 liters) (3). You be the judge.
There is a general law of the planet Earth – all things are delicately intricate. This means that when something is imbalanced, a countless series of other elements become imbalanced. The opposite is fortunately also true. Putting our collective efforts into rethinking these roads for mankind will provide the spark that will eventually create a chain-reaction and solve much more than we would have hoped to in the beginning. By doing so, we will also trade our global-warming-triggered depression for an invigorating feeling of hope. This is no small thing.
Acknowledging the existence of the 4 causes – urbanization – pollution – over-pumping and export-based economies – besides the well-known global warming – is essential in order to begin the search for the right solution. Global warming is becoming a convenient excuse world governments lean on. Instead of trading carbon chips, we might as well try resetting our priorities (i.e. ensuring an above-all-access to clean water), rethinking our cities, putting to use incredibly efficient ideas already existing in alternative agriculture (8) (Monsanto is already one step ahead), scaling down economies to the local level.
We can do more than what we are told to do – check for household leaks, water the lawn in the morning and take 5 minute-long showers (3).
A corporate love affair
In a world where water – especially clean water – becomes scarce, the main question is who will own and who will use the water from the rivers and from the ground. The question of the ownership of lakes, glaciers and even oceans will at some point become even more important.
Remote sources once too difficult to exploit will suddenly become very appealing and technology will always follow in.
A partnership between IBM and a Saudi Arabian research center has been underway since 2010. The project relies on combining two previously unrelated areas of IBM’s knowhow, microprocessor technology (in a new kind of solar panel) and nanotechnology (in a new kind of desalination filter), in the service of a third: making clean water, a business that IBM wasn’t in 8 years ago (9). The world’s largest solar-powered seawater desalination plant incorporating this groundbreaking technology is due to be commissioned in 2017 (10).
The bright side of the market is that companies become extremely efficient in reducing the amounts of water they use because they have discovered it comes with cost cuts in electricity, energy and water treatment. These cuts amount to much more than the direct save from water. If we add to the equation the analytic capability of a company like IBM, we actually come close to perfection: their microchip plant in Burlington, Vermont. It is a factory where the company makes ultrapure water – necessary to produce semiconductors but harmful to living beings. They have managed to cut water use by 29% by doing some unbelievable things which won’t be detailed here. The key was to find out where the biggest costs related to water were. The act of measuring alone created an imperative for changing behavior (9). This is how IBM discovered the economic potential of water. In a world where more and more networks are highly monitored, water networks had long been overlooked. Not anymore:
IBM is introducing the world to the era of smart water (11).
Other giant corporations have developed a recent appetite for water, including:
GE – in 2014, GE was named Water Company of the Year by Global Water Intelligence: “GE Water has transformed itself from a bundle of overpriced acquisitions into the most formidable industrial water company in the world, positioned at the center of the water-energy nexus. In 2013, it was arguably the most successful water company in the business, advancing its activities on all fronts, while many of its competitors struggled” (12)
Dow Chemical is “Purifying the essentials of life” through its Water and Process Solutions (13).
Procter & Gamble manufactures a mystery powder that restores water to safe-to-drink levels and commits “to Save One Life Every Hour by 2020” (14)
Nestlé – Nestlé Waters is the world leader of the bottled water industry with a 11.7 % market share (15). In 2011, Nestlé’s CEO, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, said the only way for the world to manage water distribution properly was to make it something for which we actually had to pay out of pocket (16).
As water becomes scarce, these companies sense the profit-making opportunity: a market develops. There is pressure for water to become a mere commodity. Letting the market manage water may reduce its waste, but not all companies are as efficient as the IBM Burlington water plant. In France, municipal water resources have been managed privately, then reclaimed by the government – with an actual distribution cost cut (16). Other voices claim that water is too precious to be mismanaged by governments (17).
Behind the marketing smokescreen, one has to recognize that the same companies responsible for very serious and long-term water pollution (18) are the ones that promise to adequately manage all aspects of water, including reuse and recycling. If they massively invest in recycling, what is the financial incentive to stop polluting?
Do we rely on recycling water or do we protect the sources we use? Can corporations do both without a conflict of interest?
Protecting the abused
Water is omnipresent on the planet and in our bodies, to the point that it has no color nor smell to us. For a long time, water was just there, within our grasp, not worth to mention.
We need to remember that water and life are inseparable. No known living thing can function without water, and there is life wherever there is water on Earth (19).
We need to remember that people can survive weeks without food and only days without water (3).
In 2006, the UN released a Human Development Report with an eloquent title: Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis (20). The whole report is worth reading, but 2 figures are mind-numbing and probably haven’t improved since:
1.1 billion people don’t have access to drinking water.
1.8 million children die annually from water-related disease.
How do we protect the children, the poor, water and ultimately all Life? Some say we need laws and regulations, but to what extent? What kinds of water should be concerned – drinking, domestic, industrial? Should laws concern water – who owns it, uses it, distributes it, cleans it – or all the other aspects that imply access to clean water, such as food, health and hygiene? Should laws transform housing and education in order to protect this right to water? Should laws regulate the biggest polluters – the industry – energy – agriculture? How?
To this day, two nations have included a right to water in their Constitution: South Africa (21) and Uruguay (22). The amendment to Uruguay’s Constitution was initiated through popular referendum. The amendment states that access to piped water and sanitation are fundamental human rights, and that social considerations take priority over economic considerations in water policies. This type of initiative should be acclaimed, studied and improved. The stakes regarding water are so high, unprecedented measures should be taken. Our political system should be remodeled around this core of rights. Exceptional care should be taken to protect Constitutional Courts from political and lobbyist influences that could weaken the implementation of constitutional law (23). The people in power – the governments – should be personally held responsible for failing to protect these rights and punished accordingly.
The ones that control water control life on Earth. Acknowledge it and talk about it.
I’ve been checking lots of blogs, new and not so new – this blog enterprise has at least this positive effect.
I have to decide what is the direction the blog is taking, may it be a definitive halt. If this goes on, I might just focus on different subjects for various periods of time – like food, politics, health, music, philosophy and who knows what else.
There are many things to be said and understood on the subject of my Day 5 post – corruption.
For now, I have to mention someone, an important ally of the fight against corruption – not just the one affecting individuals but the corruption/decay inevitable in human institutions – with a focus on the American Congress and on Corporations. I haven’t read any of his writings except parts of his blog. I’m talking about Larry Lessig, eminent law Professor at Harvard whose life was deeply changed by the life and death of Aaron Swartz – internet freedom fighter and brilliant mind. Lessig believes that representative democracy is decayed but can still be saved through reform. He had the courage to march and campaign for Presidency as a Democrat. He has recently withdrawn, although to my eyes it seems that the system has detected him as a menace and changed some code in order to reject him – he would politely call it “change of rules”.
Here’s a long story short in his own words:
The writing prompt du jour is: What is the thing you are most proud of?
I’ll only say that I’m most proud of the accomplishments of the people I love and I have to make sure they know it.
Today, I will try to write an article I can be proud of.
SHOCKING CONNECTION BETWEEN TERRORIST ATTACKS IN PARIS AND DEADLY FIRE IN BUCHAREST REVEALED
First, we need to talk about corruption.
Basic Google search shows: cor·rup·tion/kəˈrəpSH(ə)n/
dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.
But what does this mean exactly?
Let me give you some examples:
– need a passport? give the lady behind the desk 50 bucks and a pack of ground coffee and you can have it ready in 2 days instead of 3 weeks; and add a few bucks and she’ll ignore you didn’t bring proof of residence to include in the file
– need a driver’s licence or a dentist degree without opening a book? – find here an interesting blog post in The Economist.
– need to open a nightclub but find that dealing with security issues is useless? buy a permit (more on this in a moment)
– need an IT contract with the government? give the right amount of money and it’s yours – find here a very informative article on such a case
– need to sell expensive electricity that you buy cheaply in Russia? find a corrupt government and become a billionaire in no time
– need to sell your guns to the army?
and many more
Who are the people who benefit from corruption?
Not the middle class young woman striving to become a good surgeon but has no money to buy the right to operate on patients from the head surgeon. Not the local or national IT firm, even with an excellent software or service.
What does corruption look like in the eyes of the young generations?
What are the values at its core?
The big winners of a corrupt state are uneducated, money loving people, disrespectful of any law, not afraid to commit crimes, with a strong conviction that the world is theirs and that law-abiding citizens are a bunch of wimps that deserve their misery.
For our children,these people are either role models or their primary source of misery, preventing them from becoming who they are meant to be, reaching their full potential in our society.
That being said, what about the fire in Bucharest?
Bucharest is the capital of Romania. The end of World War II marked the debut of a communist regime that lasted for 50 years. 1989 was the year of a Revolution overthrowing the well-known dictator Ceausescu. Romania has been struggling with corruption and subsequent poverty ever since, their “democratic” government being controlled by ex-communist elites.
On 30 October 2015, the Colectiv nightclub fire killed 58 people and injured 153 according to Wikipedia. On 3 November, more than 15,000 people protested to demand the resignations of the Prime Minister and of the Mayor, who was criticized for giving an operating license to the club without a permit from the fire department.
On the morning of November 4, the PM, the government and the Mayor resigned. Protests ceased rapidly.
You might say the PM was not responsible for the fire. He was nevertheless the country’s first sitting premier to stand trial for corruption at that time (for forgery, complicity to tax evasion and money laundering). He was the living proof that corruption was rampant at all levels of the administration. By being the head of a corrupt government, he was responsible for the illegal licence that allowed the club to function and eventually the deaths of the young people that night. And the Romanian people in the streets understood that.
Next, let’s go to Paris.
The coordinated attacks that took place in Paris November 13 (A Friday, for the superstitious) were and are still largely covered by the media. The West has once more been attacked in the heart of it: France – symbol of past European glory, enlightenment, elegance – has been targeted by godless barbarians, in spite of what they pretend to be. There’s no argue about that.
The Islamic State has clearly become the n°1 enemy of the West. But who are the people willing to die in the name of ISIS? Common sense tells us that most probably ISIS recruits among the endless mass of ignorant and poor muslim peasants, willing to sell their children in exchange for food. Haroon Ullah, a professor at Georgetown University, seems to have a different take on this.
What makes someone become an Islamic extremist? Is it poverty? Lack of education? A search for meaning? Haroon Ullah, a senior State Department advisor and a foreign policy professor at Georgetown University, shares what he discovered while living in Pakistan.
So, two apparently unrelated events like an accidental fire in a nightclub and a suicide attack have a common starting point: corruption.
Corruption is appealing at first – you can have anything you want with the right amount of money. You might think it will make your life easier.
But in the end corruption is a plague that cuts the grass under the feet of young generations which desperately react in unsuspected ways – march the streets and dream of another Revolution like the Romanians or hope that religious extremists can bring justice for all and end up, in a twisted spiral of death half way across the globe, shooting other Middle class French youngsters enjoying a concert or a pint of beer.
One hell of a butterfly effect.
There are many other countries besides Pakistan and Romania where corruption is apparent; the people at the top feel so invincible they do not bother to hide their actions anymore.
Other countries, like France and the USA, have such well-oiled, seamless corruption machineries that the common citizen is convinced the country is corruption free.
The good news? all these people try to find a solution to end corruption and the injustice that comes with it. They are no longer passive. They sometimes make very unfortunate choices. And the men at the top won’t go away without a fight.
So what we can say for sure is there will be more blood.
Ok, that’s not good news.
Some questions to you:
Are we going to simply replace the corrupt ones by new people?
Are we going to change the system so we can prevent corruption?
If corruption is inevitable, can we build a system that does not fight it but acknowledges it and controls it?
Today, I am supposed to talk about people that thank me and why; if I discover that people thank me a lot for opening doors for them I probably should organize my career and new business around opening doors. Literally and not so literally…
People thank me for things they learn from me – life choices, health related decisions that I’ve made and make – and help improve their lives. A lot of them are about food and raising children, my two main concerns of the moment, but not only. For example, one friend’s infant had an ongoing skin condition related to allergies (she’s a doctor). She started to give baths and showers to her child once a week. She started using only olive oil as a moisturizer. In no time the skin condition amended. This was a result of a talk we had where I explained to her that we tend to over-clean our kids (in France the standard advice given to moms is every two days starting from birth), that water and cleaning products, although labelled “kid friendly”, contain aggressive ingredients. To make it short, I told her that limiting what comes in contact with the skin will eventually let the skin heal.
Giving advice is not at all easy and comfortable for me:
– First of all, my advice can be bad and bad advice is worse than no advice at all.
– Second, the things that I explore and apply to my life and family appear strange and even threatening in other people’s eyes, even if they are close friends of mine.
Fear is actually the most common and normal reaction to novelty, to things that threaten habits, myths and values.
I have found that you can try to explain in the clearest of manners something to someone, that person will not SEE the point, the reality of the matter until they are READY, until they come to a point where
their mind and conscience and soul, all these things align like planets and create the perfect configuration so that they truly understand.
So, here it comes: I believe that my purpose in life is to OBSERVE AND UNDERSTAND, make sense of all that is out there and inside every one of us. My job is also based on this. But I think I can bring more to the world than what I bring in my job.
I can only help people who want to be helped. Open-minded people, hungry people in search of another kind of “food”. But I can only promise a dark journey, for the more you understand the less you fit in the world we created.
How many people are still ready to take the blue pill?
Would it be honest to earn money from this?
This is clearly not a blog for the masses. I guess I won’t be a billionaire 😉
I was inspired by a blog I discovered today by Matthew Henkler on the subject of beginnings and how hard it is to start doing something and improving, not giving up…
He mentions the Expert problem – once you are very good at something you’d expect it to be easier to become good at other things too, but it’s not.
My view on this is that all children learn primarily from their mistakes and enjoy to fail. And then school comes in and rewards only when you don’t suck. And actually punishes every mistake you make, until you learn how to AVOID the situations at risk; so we become preconditioned adults, trying to take as little risks as possible, hiding our errors “in the backyard” and building a social image of ourselves based only on our glamorous moments.
This is quite disturbing.
I don’t know who my father was quoting some time ago, but he told me some people define an Expert as a person that has made all possible mistakes in a particular field. Well, school certainly does not help people become Experts, does it? Years after the end of school, it still haunts you, because you know “sucking sucks”…
Now if we consider this definition of an expert from another angle, a true expert has made so many errors in the process of becoming one that actually he may have undone the fear of error and he may even ENJOY making mistakes. It just might be easier for an expert to start learning something new…
The importance of making mistakes, or putting yourself in a position where mistakes can be made, their link with creative thinking, are better explained in one of the most viewed TED talk of all times by Ken Robinson.
All in all, in my job I cannot afford to make mistakes (I can make more mistakes than an airline pilot though). Nevertheless:
– mistakes are inherent to the human action and
– errors make me be better at what I do.
So I just deal with the contradiction.
It’s like something that is impossible but still exists – an image borrowed from Oriental philosophy – but more on that on a different occasion.
Oh yeah, one more thing – maybe next time I will write something on what I call the Myth of the Expert – a very deeply rooted myth in our modern society, meant to prevent people from feeling empowered to take action…
Mental note: writing late at night does not help my writing get clearer 🙂
To be frank, I was eager to write again here but I find myself with nothing to say.
Paris smells vaguely like death and the lack of daylight, the rain and the endless pavement add to the feeling of doom.
In the middle of it all, I try to remember life, especially giving life, or to be more accurate, giving birth.
I remember having this insight during labour – I was getting acquainted to that implacable rhythm of growing pain/perfect bliss/pain/bliss and thought that even the slightest difference in it would have been fatal to mankind. It was exactly what I was able to bear and most certainly what all women were able to bear since the beginning, but if that perfect bliss would have been less perfect between contractions I know for sure all women would have totally refused to go through it again, at any cost. We wouldn’t have been billions thriving on the planet and far too many writing blogs and hoping to make some sense.
For the reason explained above, labour was for me another outstanding proof of the clockwork universe we live in, which comes with a reassuring feeling. Although most of it is beyond our understanding, the world will turn the way it is supposed to, with breathtaking elegance.
first of all, it took me a whole lot more than 10 minutes to start this…I wish I could tell you this Scott Dinsmore…although I hope not to meet you anytime soon. Not yet!
second, I am quite ambivalent about this enterprise : I hope I will never be read by anyone but maybe get in touch with like-minded people, say, John Lennon?
third, and last for the moment, this is probably not the best moment to start a blog: in the aftermath of terror attacks taking place near my home, the mood is grim and the future is low….or maybe the other way around – I don’t know anymore.