Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Poverty Reduction and Consumption, the Inverse Relationship

A marriage from hell?
Millions of people are being pulled out of poverty every year, faster than ever before, although not true for the entire planet, this trend is undeniably awesome. It, of course isn't all a big love story. The World Environmental Databook (2010) shows increasing per capita consumer trends globally, with middle and low-income countries taking the cake. To feed its massive engine China is consuming resources at breakneck speeds without consideration for the irreparable damage it is causing in both its own backyard, and across Africa (Angola, Sudan...). The same databook tells us that China was consuming 95% more electricity provided by fossil fuels than the prior year, this compared to Canada's fossil-fuel electric production reduced by 3.5%. Not that Canada is a prize-pig in the environmental awards of 2012-13 either, but the speed at which resources are being consumed globally is dubious at best, horrifying at worst. What are the options that exist? I won't be the one to tell someone they can't work, or can't have electricity in their homes because it's generated by fossil fuels. A middle-ground exists where resources can be sustainably extracted, and all I believe it would take is a large short-term investment, heavy environmental assessment laws that are enforced and some bloody common sense.

Elizabeth Economy wrote in 2010 that the extreme levels of water supplies in China pose the "greatest social, economic, and political challenge of the the 21st century". When we have the professionals, skills, and technology to prevent disaster and certain economic and political crises from erupting across the planet, we should be using them, not ignoring them. For all of you flying across the planet to go to Kenya for 2 weeks to install solar panels, I need you to think really hard if what you're doing is best for the environment, or best for yourself.

In one of the greatest books on development I've read recently, "Growth, Inequality and Poverty: Prospects for pro-poor development" I found out that "there is no systematic link between the level of development and the importance of consumption inequality for poverty reduction". Consumption isn't used as a sole measurement of development, and if we define "developed" as "high consumption" (which we virtually do), then we are looking to change more than poverty reduction in the future. If poverty reduction strategies are successful in parts of the developing world, be it through economic growth or adequate government support mechanisms, then those countries should be immediately thinking of sustainable waste, energy and production methods. it should be built into their systems, not needing to be adapted for the changes that will come to our production chain, if they like it or not. Because we have to adapt our entire supply chain/production systems within the next few decades, and the private sector is definitely not fully embracing the change.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Southern France: The Côte d'Azur Illusion

I had an idea of what Nice and Southern France would look like. Beautiful Mediterranean apartments and villas, old medieval churches, unending beaches, beautiful women, and lots of tourists. This idea was only partially correct. The reality of Nice is far different from how I imagined her, and if it wasn't for her lovely neighboring villages I may have left with a bad taste in my mouth.

Nice suffers in the same way the Paris surrounding area does: suffers because of decades of failed immigration and urban planning policies. The Paris situation is less visible because for the last five decades it has been keeping minorities and most immigrants in the Banlieus surrounding the city like a cushion (think GTA); whereas Nice being a small city has integrated its French segregation policies into the town itself. There is a clear divide between the (mostly youth) North and West African and the white French population in the city, and maybe I'm exaggerating but sitting on the tram you can feel the tension. A police officer from Nice told me that while working in Marseille his station had grenades thrown into the building on 9 occasions. This sounds like Afghanistan, not Le Midi. The feeling in Nice is that it is a great place to go if a) you're wealthy; b) you're not actually staying in Nice but somewhere nearby c) you're stopping in for a wedding or d) you're comfortable with the constant threat of being pickpocketed and robbed past dark at any time.

Ville Franche sur-mer
Now for the part that isn't an illusion: the surrounding countryside. Take the train 5 minutes outside of the city, and you have a great treat waiting. Villages built on cliffs, walking-only roads with restaurants and cafes strewn about around every corner, bridges and medieval history reeking from every pore of the stone. Take a nap in a small shaded area by trees near an old church. ahh. This is the Côte d'Azur I have in my mind. settle the night with a tasty dinner and a complimentary glass of cognac. Since living, opposed of traveling I've been very careful to not judge a place before going, and finding gems like this emphasizes the importance of going yourself, and feeling the best and worst of the world, because they go hand-in-hand.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Paris via bicycle

Riding a bike in a city can be intimidating if you haven't sat on one since you were twelve; and in small Canadian cities the possibility doesn't even exist depending on your living/working situation. Toronto is now struggling to accommodate towards cyclists while not taking funding from other "public transport" sectors, when in all actuality if the city did make cycling more appealing and safe it would be helping itself out in more ways then one. More cars off the streets, less need to fix the problems that cars create, to say the least the healthcare epidemic that exists from a lack of exercise (if you're not walking more than 500 steps a day, you're in for some serious health problems down the road). These are, I suppose some aspects of the pro-cycle community. But I feel there is a much larger side, a more passionate or emotional argument that politicians and construction companies don't like to hear.

If by chance you live in a city that's interesting enough to ride a bike to work, or for leisure, or to the library; then this article will be a repetition of how you feel outside on the road. I right now am lucky enough to live in a interesting city that makes for interesting bike rides. Get some sun. see new roads. Find new stores and cafes. Learn the cities' orientation better. A friend of mine has never taken a bike for the past 3 months since living here, and has no idea where anything is, for that matter where she is; because the metro lines keep you underground and pop you up like a gopher within 100 metres of your destination. No need to walk around, or to breath in new aspects of the city. Riding lets you learn more, and allows you to really feel loosened off of the strict paths of point A---->>point B.

"It's Dangerous!!!!" I have my doubts. If I'm still alive riding how I do, combined with how Parisians drive, and how the roads are laid out, I don't think it is at all. Don't feel like researching it, but even with no one wearing helmets here I'm yet to see someone get touched by a car. Get out, get on a bike, and quit being lazy.