Technology as if people mattered

Photo: Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters
May 3rd, 2016 by

A few months ago, new friends of ours came to visit for dinner. So shocked were they by the squat television in our living room that they insisted we accept a flat-screen version they had going spare.

Now, I’m usually of the ‘use it until it wears out’ school when it comes to my possessions and I was quite fond of the old box we had – its colours were still fine, it did its job. It was far from obsolete.

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On wings of hope: Interfaith global call to action on climate change

Interfaith Climate Change Statement
April 19th, 2016 by

I’m aboard QF11 from Australia to JFK Airport New York via Los Angeles.

For the past few weeks I have worked with a tireless and committed group of people to gather high level faith signatures for an Interfaith Climate Change Statement.

Thankfully, amazingly, over 250 senior faith leaders across the world have added their names to this combined call for urgent action on climate change. I’m flying to New York for 50 hours on the ground to witness the formal handover of this joint statement to the current President of the United Nations General Assembly.

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Combat Climate Change? There’s an App for That.

Climatarian
April 12th, 2016 by

Fed up of folks Instagramming their dinners?

A new app from Melbourne-based climate action group Less Meat Less Heat will have you craning your neck to see what’s on other people’s plates.

Used to having control at the swipe of a touchscreen, millenials are turning to their devices for everything from financial management to weight loss to language learning. Now there’s an app for monitoring the carbon footprint of our food choices.

The aptly named Climatarian Challenge app is scheduled for launch on 1st July, and will be free to download, thanks to a bold crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of production.

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Last stand: saving the world’s forests

We don't see the clear-cut hillsides
April 4th, 2016 by

One of my vivid boyhood memories is of scrambling amongst granite outcrops of the Canadian Shield in the shimmering heat of a July afternoon.

I emerged from the forest into mottled sunshine and stretched out on flat, lichen-covered rocks, high above the black waters of a quiet lake. Stately white pines touched the sky. Underfoot was a cushion of sharply perfumed pine needles. The air was calm.

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Please take a seat – it’s Angelique Kidjo at WOMADelaide

Angelique Kidjo
March 4th, 2016 by

Telling the WOMADelaide crowds to sit down is a tall order. There’s so much dancing on stage and in the crowd.

But just occasionally there’s a performance of such subtle beauty and dynamic range – such as with the performance of Ravi Shankar and Anoushka Shankar six years ago – that WOMADelaide organisers insist the crowd sit on the grass and focus.

The big sit this year will be to bask in the magic of Angélique Kidjo with guitarist David Laborier and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

This extract from a classic interview for the New Internationalist magazine illustrates just how many strings The Grammy award-winning musician, writer and UNICEF goodwill ambassador has to her bow. You can read the full interview here.

NI: You left Benin in 1983 to study jazz in Paris, and ended up finding Africa elsewhere: in jazz music in France, then the blues of the US, the carnival and candomblé of Brazil, the salsa of Cuba. Is this testament to the resilience of African music? (more…)

Saudia Arabia – making friends, making enemies

Saudi Arabia and the West
March 3rd, 2016 by

The Saudi regime won’t like this magazine. Nor will the Western governments who kowtow to it while exploiting its wealth and paranoia – which have been on full show recently.

The Saudi justice ministry threatened to sue a Twitter user who compared the regime with ISIS after poet Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death ‘for spreading atheism and disrespecting the prophet’. This was met with an international #SueMeSaudi campaign.

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Tigray, Ethiopia: a gift of water is a gift of life

Hiwot, Zenebech and Werkenesh from the well committee
December 30th, 2015 by

Graham Romanes has had a deep connection with the people of Ethiopia over many decades and now leads the NGO WellWishers. He writes:

“I was very privileged to visit Tigray at the end of November to inspect 10 of the well sites in our 64 wells program for 2015.  The program is on target to finish construction of the 64 wells by the end of January 2016. The number of Ethiopian villagers who will now have fresh, clean, safe and accessible drinking water for the first time is over 17,800. A fabulous contribution made by WellWishers supporters to the lives of so many people.

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The COP-out we cannot afford

Less Meat; Less Heat
December 21st, 2015 by

One week on from COP21, Mark Pershin and Kari McGregor weigh in on the false promises of a flaccid agreement that leaves behind the innocent and most vulnerable.

Paris was a world-first: all of the major emitters huddled around the negotiating table, ready to write the script for a new era of climate action. No absences. No excuses.

It took 21 years of bureaucratic wrangling to transcend tactical boycotts and get everyone to the starting blocks. If nothing else, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) twenty-first conference of parties (COP21) can take credit for a full house.

Talks have often been fraught with tension: negotiations at COP6 at The Hague in 2000 broke down and talks were rescheduled for 2001 in Bonn; COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009 collapsed in disarray without agreement.

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Looking forward from COP21 Paris to COP22 Marrakech

Ban Ki Moon at COP21
December 19th, 2015 by

What was unthinkable is now unstoppable – Ban Ki Moon, UN Secretary General

His quote resonated among the many speeches that followed French President Francois Hollande’s announcement that we now have a new global understanding on climate – the legally binding Paris Agreement.

Following Copenhagen 2006, it was unthinkable 196 nations would voluntarily sign up to the world’s first global agreement to work together on climate change in good faith, with 189 lodging Intended Nationally Determined Contributions INDCs before Paris.

Yet it’s important to state plainly that the net contribution of all INDCs now in hand still commit the world to 2.7-3 of warming, so we are not out of the woods yet, but at least we are starting to take it all seriously…

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Two and a half cheers for the COP21 climate talks outcome

World March of Women - COP21
December 13th, 2015 by

George Monbiot got it about right with his assessment of the COP21 outcome:

By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.

But no matter what, the Paris Agreement does mark a turning point, and sends by far the strongest signal yet to banks, investors and industry. One might ask where they have been looking in the past decade if they haven’t already read the signals. Has it been gross negligence or haven’t they read their own disclaimers that past performance should not be taken as an indicator of future returns on fossil fuels? How can it be that they’ve wilfully ignored the risk of stranded assets?

As May Boeve – Executive Director of 350.org – put it:

“This marks the end of the era of fossil fuels. There is no way to meet the targets laid out in this agreement without keeping coal, oil and gas in the ground. The text should send a clear signal to fossil fuel investors: divest now.”

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