Here’s the plan. China wants to move 250,000,000 people out of its rural areas and into cities within the next 15 years.
There are 316 million people in the United States. China’s plan is to move nearly as many people as the world’s third most populous country.
To do so, China is undertaking a massive construction effort to expand, improve and build new urban centers. Reporting from the New York Times reveals that the effort to transform the country has the potential to rapidly propel China or saddle it with long term and harmful problems.
Farmer plants rice in the Philippines. Credit: International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
Want to change the world? Many tell you to start at the grocery story…or with your local farmers market.
Eat less meat, go organic, eat local and eat healthier. Such recommendations can be heard just about anywhere and they often end with a call to demand support for American farmers, or politically, renewal of the US Farm Bill. The argument sounds sensible on a quick glance and certainly so from a US-centric, self-serving perspective. But it may not be so sensible and good.
Modern food production and distribution systems are today international in scope and affect almost everyone, everywhere – and in many ways that may surprise you.
As the same time, eating local – locavores – has increasingly become a popular trend in the United States. Farm-to-table restaurants are popping up touting that they source all their products locally. The appeal is that consumers can get fresh (often organic) produce at nearly the same cost while supporting local businesses and reducing the massive carbon footprint produced by shipping food across the United States.
The trend has come with wider public recognition of the downside of industrial food production: The antibiotics used for livestock protect against disease (and boosts production) but this also builds drug resistance that has negative ramifications for people’s health. The high overall consumption of meat hurts the environment – from the methane produced by cows to the amount of land and water needed to care for them. Policies by governments and purchases by consumers have an impact on farmers from Arkansas to Haiti to the Horn of Africa.
The choice between eating cheap supermarket food versus being a sustainable locavore is not really as simple as it looks, at least if your goal is to make the world a better place.Continue reading →
A cholera outbreak in Sierra Leone that made its way to the capital city of Freetown is spreading at an alarming rate. MSF reported an estimated 1,500 cases and 17 deaths in a July 31 press release. The WHO released new numbers yesterday that cholera has infected 5,706 people since the start of August. They single out Western Aread and Tonkolili as areas with the greatest burden.
Right now, the response is being led by major players such as the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Health, MSF, UNICEF and the WHO. At the same time, neighboring Guinea is dealing with its own cholera outbreak. According to MSF, the shared resivor near the coast is a ‘breeding ground for the disease.’
“This ‘coastal cholera’ has already killed some 250 people,” says MSF epidemiologist Michel Van Herp. “The water reservoir allows the Vibrio cholerae bacteria to survive and go on to infect the population.” To respond, organizations are turning their focus onto improving hygiene.
A technological innovation (the iPad) a well designed survey (cluster randomization) and young health workers are the backbone of an important new study on surgery. Some might expect the combination of resources to be applied in a middle or high income nation, but a team has come together to provide a historic snapshot of untreated surgical conditions in Sierra Leone that was published in The Lancet last week.
The survey determined that 25% of respondents needed surgical care and 25% of deaths in the previous year attributable to a condition that could have been treated through surgery. In other words, surgery is needed by a significant number of people today and such services can avoid preventable deaths.
“Once, I operated on a 3 year old girl in Malawi who had fallen from a balcony and was in a coma. She needed holes drilled in her skull to release a blood clot. She survived and made a full recovery even though initially he father said that type of surgery couldn’t be done in Malawi,” said Dr Adam Kushner, one of the study’s authors. ”Many obstacles exist from a lack of skilled providers, incuding personnel and training and the lack of supplies or equipment. Populations also lack the knowledge to seek surgical care or don’t trust the health system.” Continue reading →
The subject of how to report on Africa has come into focus the past few months with articles from academic Laura Seay in Foreign Policy and a response by Tristan McConnell in the GlobalPost. Both make some points worth considering, but it is the nuanced entry from Jina Moore in the Boston Review earlier this month that provides a critical perspective from a journalists who has dealt with the desires of readers and editors while being mindful of the complexity of telling stories from Africa.
One example of this is the need to reference the genocide when writing about Rwanda.
Nearly every story I published from Rwanda in my three years reporting there included a reference to the 1994 genocide. Dredging up suffering can win a busy audience’s attention, but it’s a limited kind of attention. It’s the attention of the kind-hearted stranger from a distance, the reader who stops eating his breakfast or reading her stock quotes to remember just how bad it is in other places.
By narrowing the lens of storytelling into one that largely focuses on compassion, a single and problematic narrative emerges. Continue reading →