Watch the sea lions in Valdivia, Chile

Valdivia is, at first view, a beautiful city with a breezy riverfront, multiple universities, old architecture and good restaurant. However, a walk down the riverfront changes your opinion a bit. You notice the extremely smoky Celco-Arauco paper mill that sends up constant masses of smoke into the sky. In 2005 some 5000 black-necked swans died from contamination from this factory. This environmental catastrophe drew local and worldwide outrage, but the plant continues to operate unfortunately.

The city is still well-worth a visit though – even if only for a day. Head to the colourful Ferie Fluvial, the riverside fish and vegetable market, where sea lions paddle up for handouts. In this video you will see some of the huge, gorgeous sea lions that were literally 1 meter away from me. They are not in cages. They are swimming freely in the river…bless them and let’s pray that the river is not as polluted as it looked.

Green activists ‘are keeping Africa poor’

I’ve just read a very interesting article in yesterday’s Times newspaper, where the British former chief scientist, Professor Sir David King, states that Western ‘do-gooders’ (in this instance NGOs) are impoverishing Africa by promoting traditional organic farming methods at the expense of modern scientific agriculture.

The article states that NGOs from Europe and America are turning African countries against sophisticated farming methods, including GM crops (e.g. rice that resists flooding & drought), in favour of indigenous and organic approaches. These organic methods simply cannot deliver the continent’s much needed ‘Green Revolution’, and the end result is that millions of people are suffering unnecessarily.

“The problem is that the Western-world move toward organic farming – a lifestyle choice for a community with surplus food – and against agricultural technology in general and GM in particular, has been adopted across Africa, with the exception of South Africa, with devastating consequences.”

Full article at Times Online.

Shun meat, says UN climate chief

By, Richard Black, BBC News, September 7, 2008

People should consider eating less meat as a way of combating global warming, says the UN’s top climate scientist.

Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will make the call at a speech in London on Monday evening.

UN figures suggest that meat production puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than transport.

But a spokeswoman for the UK’s National Farmers’ Union (NFU) said methane emissions from farms were declining.

Dr Pachauri has just been re-appointed for a second six-year term as chairman of the Nobel Prize-winning IPCC, the body that collates and evaluates climate data for the world’s governments.

“The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that direct emissions from meat production account for about 18% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions,” he told BBC News.

“So I want to highlight the fact that among options for mitigating climate change, changing diets is something one should consider.”

Climate of persuasion

The FAO figure of 18% includes greenhouse gases released in every part of the meat production cycle – clearing forested land, making and transporting fertiliser, burning fossil fuels in farm vehicles, and the front and rear end emissions of cattle and sheep.

The contributions of the three main greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide – are roughly equivalent, the FAO calculates.

Transport, by contrast, accounts for just 13% of humankind’s greenhouse gas footprint, according to the IPCC.

Dr Pachauri will be speaking at a meeting organised by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), whose main reason for suggesting people lower their consumption of meat is to reduce the number of animals in factory farms.

CIWF’s ambassador Joyce D’Silva said that thinking about climate change could spur people to change their habits.

“The climate change angle could be quite persuasive,” she said.

“Surveys show people are anxious about their personal carbon footprints and cutting back on car journeys and so on; but they may not realise that changing what’s on their plate could have an even bigger effect.”

Side benefits

There are various possibilities for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions associated with farming animals.

They range from scientific approaches, such as genetically engineering strains of cattle that produce less methane flatus, to reducing the amount of transport involved through eating locally reared animals.

“The NFU is committed to ensuring farming is part of the solution to climate change, rather than being part of the problem,” an NFU spokeswoman told BBC News.

“We strongly support research aimed at reducing methane emissions from livestock farming by, for example, changing diets and using anaerobic digestion.”

Methane emissions from UK farms have fallen by 13% since 1990.

But the biggest source globally of carbon dioxide from meat production is land clearance, particularly of tropical forest, which is set to continue as long as demand for meat rises.

Ms D’Silva believes that governments negotiating a successor to the Kyoto Protocol ought to take these factors into account.

“I would like governments to set targets for reduction in meat production and consumption,” she said.

“That’s something that should probably happen at a global level as part of a negotiated climate change treaty, and it would be done fairly, so that people with little meat at the moment such as in sub-Saharan Africa would be able to eat more, and we in the west would eat less.”

Dr Pachauri, however, sees it more as an issue of personal choice.

“I’m not in favour of mandating things like this, but if there were a (global) price on carbon perhaps the price of meat would go up and people would eat less,” he said.

“But if we’re honest, less meat is also good for the health, and would also at the same time reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.”

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/7600005.stm

Female intuition – unique to women?

Female intuition – is it unique to women?

“No” says the Swedish professor Lars-Erik Björklund after having done brain research on the topic of intuition the past many years. He says it is simply neurobiology.

Intuition is apparently not female nor unique, it is usually a result of years of experience and saved up knowledge which can give you a “feeling” in or of a situation. So the more experience you have – the more intuition.

The more variations of different situations we have experienced in our life, the greater the likelihood that we recognise and react correctly in a given situation.

It can be a matter of smells, movements, an indescribable combination of impressions that we use.

According to professor Björklund the memories and feelings that our memory is full of are only stored if they really affect us. Hence we can’t study to be more intuitive. We have to experience it.

I wonder how he would explain the fact that most women know when something is wrong with their child (even if there are no symptoms) or that her husband is cheating on her…when she has no previous experience of such kind?

It’s quite an interesting debate. Please feel free to comment.

Ugandan HIV-activists face life in prison for handing out flyers

women kissing

I don’t consider myself a lesbian, but I am a humanist (and an HIV-activist) and I was utterly shocked when I read today that three homosexual HIV-activists had been arrested in Uganda and may be facing a sentence of life in prison.

For what crime you may ask? The answer is to prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS and thereby save human lives!

The three activists (two women and one man) had sneaked into a global AIDS-conference and were handing out flyers about homosexual’s rights to HIV-prevention such as "Homosexuals in Uganda also need protection against HIV" and "From 1983 until 2008 the expenditure for HIV-prevention for homosexuals in Uganda was nil shillings".

In Uganda this activity (handing out flyers) is considered "promotion of homosexuality" according to the Ugandan police chief. And homosexuality is illegal in Uganda and even an attempt to engage in a homosexual act is punished with up to seven years in prison. In my opinion this is absolutely appalling. How can a country dictate who you love and show your affection to? And how can they potentially send people to prison for advocating for HIV-protection and human rights?

According to the International Gay and Lesbian Association it is forbidden to be homosexual in 38 African countries.

The AIDS-conference in Uganda was arranged by the UN, USA and the World Bank. There were 1.700 participants from 70 countries.

A night at the Orphanage with Cyclone Nargis

This post is an account of a night spent at Safe Haven Orphanage on the Thailand Burma border as Cyclone Nargis passed by North West of us. If you would like to make a donation to the victims of the Cyclone inside Burma – please do so at Givetoburma.org.

Last week I headed to Mae Sot for a few days to conduct a training course and catch up with some friends. On Saturday, five of us decided to hire a pick-up truck and head 150KM North up the Thailand/Burma border to Safe Haven Orphanage.

It had poured down in Mae Sot at about 2am on Saturday morning, and the rain showed no sign of abating. We arrived at Safe Haven at about 3pm on Saturday, and dashed between muddy puddles for the nearest house to avoid another soaking.

Tasanee and the children from Safe Haven Orphanage moved onto their new land shortly before Christmas. The land is located next to the river marking the border between Thailand and Burma, and when I made the trip there with my sister during our motorbike epic last December, Tasanee was frantically directing the assembly of the first wooden house so that the children could move in by Christmas.

This time, there were 4 or 5 mainly wooden Karen-style structures in various stages of completion – the beginning of a new settlement. All the buildings were raised on wooden stilts, with leaf & bamboo roofs.

Cyclone Nargis path map - Thailand & Burma

At about 4pm on Saturday afternoon the rain really started hammering down, and seemed to be flying past the valley sides with an almost horizontal trajectory. We didn’t think too much of it at this point – it was more of an inconvenience because it meant we couldn’t play with the children outside. Looking for something to do, we decided to head into the neighbouring village to buy some sweets for the children, and 15 minutes later discovered the road we had entered the village by had been blocked by a falling tree and power lines it had brought down.

Read moreA night at the Orphanage with Cyclone Nargis