We need to talk about undies

Yes, your undies are a very private thing. Comfort and style are immensely important, and no doubt you’ll have a strong personal preference. But we do need to talk about undies.

Do you know what nasties are riding along with your favourite undies?

Residual chemicals in clothing

It’s a significant issue in clothing, particularly for people with sensitive skin, and especially in underwear that hugs our skin so closely. So much so that Choice recommends:

wash any new clothes twice before wearing, although washing won’t remove certain types of chemicals

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Looking forward from COP21 Paris to COP22 Marrakech

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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Vandana Shiva – seed freedom

At WOMADelaide’s Planet Talks, Vandana Shiva, Paul Sutton and Tim Jarvis will be challenging the values that we place on our land, food and water, and what these values mean for the health of our planet and ourselves.

I spoke to Dr Vandana Shiva about seeds and freedom.

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India’s food security vs the World Trade Organization

India has come under heavy criticism for blocking the implementation of a World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement reached at Bali in December 2013.

Proponents celebrated the Bali “package” as a long-awaited achievement by the WTO, which had failed to reach a significant agreement since 1995. However, critics lamented that the Bali deal was skewed in the favour of developed nations.

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A tale of two doormats

Have you ever stood under a coconut palm for shelter during a rainstorm? Hmmm. Not such a good idea. For a start, a coconut palm isn’t much of an umbrella. But the big issue is falling coconuts. A typical coconut weighs in at about 2k, and falling 25m from near the top of the palm turns it into a deadly projectile. If you value your brain, get out from under that coconut palm in a hurry. And listen to the thuds from a safe distance as the coconuts hit the ground.

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The risks of climate change denial

Two reports emerged recently which, in their own ways, should count as turning points in the public’s perception of climate change. The first, and most disquieting, was put out by the Mauna Loa observatory to impart the dark news that the level of carbon in the atmosphere has reached 400 parts per million, i.e. within every million units of air, there are now 400 units of CO2. To put that into context, one of the United States’ most formidable climate change activist groups, the 350 movement, takes its name from the safest maximum amount of CO2 in the air. That we have now passed this point – for the first time in three million years – should be making every stakeholder in the climate change ‘debate’, from the President of the United States to the lowliest newspaper sub-editor, sharpen their literal and metaphorical pencils for robustly renewed calls to arms. But, no, the game remains unchanged, most of the principal players seemingly content with their business-as-usual indifference, idly passing the time like Nero as civilisation teeters.

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Supping with the devil

Chanchal was joking about supping with the devil for lunch…

He manages the handcraft production unit at Silence, a training and employment centre for physically challenged people in Kolkata, and I was visiting to see if they had products that we could sell through our online shop at home. He tells me if we go to KFC we’re likely to be served by a deaf mute person. In India such physically challenged people are still very much discriminated against in employment and get no government assistance, which means those who can’t get support from family frequently resort to begging to survive. So a job at KFC is a big thing and we should support them. It’s not often you hear positive sentiments from a Fair Trader about multinational fast food chains, and given their sometimes dubious international reputations and tendency to displace small-scale cafes and food vendors Chanchal admits to a high degree of ambivalence about them. But he has to admit their relatively recent expansion in Kolkata has on balance been good for the disabled of the city. Continue reading

Bollywood aprons and a beauty parlour in Chennai

New Internationalist Australia’s fair trade specialist, Paul Deighton, visits Chennai, India and is in awe of the resourcefulness and energy he finds there.

My hotel window looks over a huge white elephant. Looking somewhat like a modern day Grecian mausoleum, it’s the erstwhile octogenarian Tamil Nadu leader’s legacy to his people – a new parliament house cum government offices that seems to stretch away into the distance for half a kilometre. The new premier has, according to Philip, refused to move in and wants it to be turned into a shopping mall or some other such function, and the high court is set to decide its future – most likely forcing the new leader to use it for its intended purpose. Such is politics in Tamil Nadu… Continue reading