Thursday, February 21, 2013

Think.Eat - Save?

Funny how things happen by chance - read a notice in our local paper that the UN designated 2013 as the Year of Quinoa and then a Facebook friend sent a notice of a Blog competition on the World Environment Day's theme of reducing your foodprint. Ironically will be doing an exam on Public Health which covers this topic -Environment, Health and Sustainable Development at the same time the host country will be giving out the prizes!
So my first thought when I read about Quinoa being chosen was something I had read about the poor peasant women in the Andes who were showing signs of mal-nourishment as their staple food was being flown to be the new trendy food of Health food enthusiasts of the World and the question of the amount of food miles of flying the super-grain from the Andean region in South America to the tables of the developed world being sanctioned by the UN raised my eyebrows:
Quinoa for those who don't know is a nutty-tasting grain originating from the Andes which has no gluten, a high concentration of amino acids along with trace elements and vitamins. Like our local farine, it fuels the system of the indigeneous Indians to work for long periods. Its journey to our tables is an interesting example of the globalisation of food production.
Apparently the grain is very adaptable to different agro-ecological regions and can be grown from areas with relative humidity of 40 to 88% and from low-lying areas at sea level to 4000m above sea level and in temperatures from 8 to 38 degrees Celsius. So it's only the ecological balance that would need to be taken into consideration and a way of keeping the major Agro-Food-manufacturers from thinking of a way to captialise and monopolise the market. So far, it seems the only other place growing the grain on a commercial scale is Colorado in the United States, which means the Andean farmers have seen a tripling of the price of their crop since 2006 - leading to increases in the export market and driving down consumption in the local market where it was reported to leading to  increasingly substitution of the more unhealthy Western diet of  'junk food'.
This is a good example of risk transition - when an increase in modern risks like obesity due to unhealthy calorie-dense foods increase while the traditional risks partly due to poverty recede with increasing economic development.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation sees this grain as an important contribution towards food security and achieving the first Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. A recent article noted that with increasing population 'All inputs needed to feed each additional person will, on average, come from scarcer, poorer, and more distant sources, disproportionately more energy will be used, and disproportionately more greenhouse gases will be generated.'
While the production of a vegetarian protein-rich food is more sustainable in the long run compared to meat production, it was reported in the second article above that other traditional sustainable forms of agriculture are being sacrificed by the mass production demands for quinoa, already upsetting the ecological balance involving soil fertility and llamas. It remains to be seen what effects introducing a new plant to a different ecosystem in order to cut down the carbon footstep,will produce.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Insane Policies of Guyana --- 1

Duly informed that my old banger has reached the stage where it would be unprofitable to keep buying parts to repair it … had been half-heartedly scouting around for a replacement.

Came across the rules from the ‘70’s that cars are considered ‘luxury goods’ and as a way to limit the number of vehicles on the roads--- high import duties were imposed. England, on whose legal system our Laws are based and whose road space is limited also imposes high Road Taxes and Insurances premiums and puts the onus of responsibility for Road-worthiness on the mechanics issuing a Certificate of Fitness. – leaving the Police free to impose harsh penalties in the event of car-unroadworthiness.

So I discovered to my surprise that higher duties are imposed on vehicles less than 5 years and those 10years or less are charged much less, resulting in Guyana being inundated with reconditioned vehicles over ten years old --- mmm which bright spark thought of THAT loophole? Also, apparently until recently the oversized fuel inefficient vehicles way too big for our roads had a flat rate of import duty way below the regular vehicles. So Guyana is a dumping ground for old inefficient vehicles! But no worries as we have virgin forests belching out oxygen – never mind the illegal mining and unregulated forest harvesting!

I thought the oversized vehicles were for interior travels until a mechanic told me that the Tundras have a poor something (-suspension?) which make them unsuitable for the rough interior roads. It seems the main use is for rich parents to give their inexperienced children a big vehicle to drive – the logic being that they will incur less injuries in the event of an accident and as for the other people involved in the accident --- well sod them- that’s their problem.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gun Control

So the ideas of Gun Control surfaced this week as I got the 1999 email forward of Darrell Scott's address to the US Congress wherein he postulated that gun violence in schools- his daughter was killed in the Columbine shooting - was because prayer was not part of the curriculum and that restrictive Laws were not the answer. Also this week as I was stuck in a waiting lounge of an airport for a ridiculous length of time and forced to watch the nauseatingly chirpy CNN for much too long, covering the funeral of an Iraqi vet/SEAL who was gunned down on a shooting range by another traumatised war vet. I had read an article in a Californian newspaper who portrayed him as a redneck killer who disdained gun control but in fact a quick perusal of the reviews of his book on Amazon revealed that the man was actually quite brave to be in a combat situation and having to follow rules - however like the californian paper says, he comes across as an ignoramus glorying in killing the 'savages'- so no great loss to humanity that he died misguidedly substituting  letting out a few rounds on a shooting range for therapy although I have been informed by a hunter guy that it is therapeutic to kill things and fire a gun.
So at what point do we/should we impinge on the rights of others to bear guns?  In my opinion, like making children and driving cars - it appears that the least capable/able are the most prolific although academic benchmarks are not the necessarily the best way to go.  Maybe with the advent of the Internet, psychological tests should be carried out and clearance given before before either course of action is taken but it does sound like too much like 1984 or Brave New World - who gets to decide?