Sunday Reader #3

February 1, 2010

Opps, I’ve missed a week already.  Bad internet and general busy-ness as I prepare to leave Honduras (this week!) are my excuses.  Next week I’ll be at a conference in Savannah so I will probably miss another one, but should be back more regularly once we are back in NZ.  In the meantime here are some of the issues I’ve been following and other random internet goodness for you to pick through.


The big news in Honduras this week was the inauguration of Porfirio Lobo as President.  The coup “de facto” government is gone!  I wanted to write a whole post on this but just don’t have the time.  Maybe once I get back to NZ I will, but for now here are some photos by Honduras e logo ali of the procession to the airport to farewell Zelaya.  The march was completely peaceful – maybe because the military left them well alone.

Not related to the inauguration, but directly connected to the coup is a feature in the NYT lens blog of Pablo Delano’s photographs.  In 1997 Delano, a professory of Fine Arts, started a project to document the varied ethnic groups in Honduras.  His work was unfortunately cut short when his collaborator and patron in the government Darío A. Euraque was ousted by the coup leaders. The photos are stunning and a testament to the beautiful diversity of Honduras.


The internet continues to buzz with posts about how to help Haiti.  And aid workers continue to try to draw attention to how not to help.  This story and this one remind us why despite the best of motives and intention, for most going to Haiti is just not the best way to help.  For those determined to go, Saundra has some tips on how to evaluate volunteer opportunities in Haiti.

While campaigns to cancel Haitis debt heat up across the web, Venezuela is amongst the first to actually do so.

Other random stuff:

Julie Clawson has an interesting post up on walking the justice walk.  Long before any crisis of faith, I had a crisis of confidence in the church. This is why.

PhD comics neatly sum up my feelings about my thesis work at the moment.

And finally this photo from Wellington Daily Photo reminds me of why it is time to go home. Summer in my city.


Pepe does not believe that he is doing anything special. He feels that everything consists of being on the side of the people, listening to them, learning, and not telling them what they should do. “The idea is not to make them become aware of the fact that they need to liberate themselves, but to listen and watch what they do; understand the people, not lead them. Listen up …”

Read the rest of this very interesting article here.

‘The Poverty Diet’

January 8, 2009

‘The Poverty Diet’: a Comparison of the American Diet and Weight Loss Plans in Consideration of Global Food Shortages | EcoSalon – The Green Gathering.

The ‘diet’ described here is pretty typical for rural Central America. Vanessa Barrington’s discussion of her experience in Guatemala helps put the ‘economic crisis’ of developed nations into perspective.

Crisis in Honduras

October 28, 2008

Apologies to anyone checking this blog for travel uopdates on our trip to Honduras.  Bad internet connections, and a busy schedule have meant not a lot of time for blogging.  I’ll try and do a bit of a general round-up of our trip to Honduras soon but at the moment I want to comment briefly something far more relevant to most Hondurans than our travels, the weather crisis.

The rain which has bothered us since our arrival in Honduras last week became more than a nuisance. A tropical depression (number 16 apparently) dumped massive amounts of rain across Honduras and, as could be predicted in a heavily deforested country, has resulted in devastating landslides and widespread flooding, The damage has been compared to Hurricane Mitch, although with the death toll somewhere around 30 the mortality rate certainly doesn’t compare.

Here is some of the news-

Floods, landslides imperil thousands of families in Honduras

Flooding in Honduras Forces Mass Evacuation

Video of floods (You Tube)– in Spanish but the pictures say all.

We have been safe and (mostly) dry through all of this. It did give us some concern last week due to road damage, and will likely again as more rain is forecast this week and we need to travel to San Pedro Sula later in the week in order to do some interviews and then fly home.  However the hardest thing is knowing this is going on, it’s heartbreaking to hear daily of people loosing homes, and worrying to think about all the crops lost and infrastructural damage that will plague this country for months (if not years) after the international community forgets.

Collapsed motel on the road Danli-Tegucigalpa road.  We travelled past here last Thursday.
Collapsed hotel on the road Danli-Tegucigalpa road. We travelled past here last Thursday.  On spotting the collapsed building we heard several people on the bus saying “Amen”  and “Thank the Lord”.  We later found out it was a by-the-hour hotel. Evangelical Christians are clearly not upset by this particular building collapse.    (photo from Reuters).

Over recent years I have been gradually moving from a strongly “pro-life”/anti-abortion stand (influenced of course by my good Christian upbringing) to what I feel is a more balanced, realistic view of this issue.

I have been thinking about posting on this for a while, but I’m not sure I have much to add to this article by George Monbiot.

A study published in the Lancet shows that between 1995 and 2003 the global rate of induced abortions fell from 35 per 1000 women each year to 29(7)… When you look at the broken-down figures, it becomes clear that… the incidence of abortion is highest in conservative and religious societies. In the largely secular nations of western Europe, the average rate is 12 abortions per 1000 women. In the more religious southern European countries, the average rate is 18. In the United States, where church attendance is still higher, there are 23 abortions for every 1000 women(9), the highest level in the rich world. In Central and South America, where the Catholic Church holds greatest sway, the rates are 25 and 33 respectively. In the very conservative societies of East Africa, it’s 39(10).

…But while his church causes plenty of suffering in the rich nations, this doesn’t compare to the misery inflicted on the poor. Chillingly, as the Lancet paper shows, there is no relationship between the legality and the incidence of abortion. Women who have no access to contraceptives will try to terminate unwanted pregnancies whatever the consequences might be. A report by the World Health Organisation shows that almost half the world’s abortions are unauthorised and unsafe(16). In eastern Africa and Latin America, where religious conservatives ensure that terminations remain illegal, they account for almost all abortions. Methods include drinking turpentine or bleach, shoving sticks or coat hangers into the uterus(17) and pummelling the abdomen, which often causes the uterus to burst, killing the patient(18). The WHO estimates that between 65 000 and 70 000 women die as a result of illegal abortions every year, while five million suffer severe complications. These effects, the organisation says, “are the visible consequences of restrictive legal codes.”

An abortion is certainly something no woman ever wants to have, and in an ideal world I am sure I would probably be “pro-life”.  But we do not live in an ideal world, we live in this one, and in this one women are hurt and die for a lack of access to contraceptives and safe abortions.    For that reason I support legalised abortion, paired with good sex education and the widespread provision of contraceptives. This is what will save lives.

What are they thinking?  It would be funny if it weren’t so wrong.

Two companies planning to explore for oil in rainforest inhabited by uncontacted tribes have revealed plans to ‘communicate’ with them using megaphones if their oil crews are attacked.

No one knows the languages the Indians speak, and they are likely to view oil crews as hostile intruders. In the past oil company workers in the Amazon region have been killed by isolated Indians…

Amongst the phrases Barrett’s workers are expected to say to their potential attackers are, ‘How many days (moons or suns) have you walked for?’, ‘We are people just like you’, ‘Is something disturbing you?’ and ‘We haven’t come here to look for women, we have our own women in our own village.’

From Survival International

Honduran Children

August 13, 2007

Maybe it is because my daughter is one, but I have a very soft spot for Honduran children. My google reader has thrown up a few posts about them recently which I thought I’d share.

The bad news- the UN Children’s Rights Committee has “warned that thousands of Honduran children are growing up on the streets without access to health care and education, and forced to work or commit crimes in order to survive.”

Another UN report (co-written by the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean and the children’s fund, Unicef) states that more than a third of children and teenagers in Latin America lack access to safe drinking water in their homes, with the worst affected being groups black and indigenous children, particularly in Nicaragua, Honduras and Bolivia.

The good news- “ministers from several Central American nations (including Honduras) are gathering to discuss child labor problems in their countries. … The goal of the meeting is to eradicate child labor in the region. The ministers also plan to create programs ensuring a more decent life for children.”

The heartwarmer- This photo gallery of children from Ciudad España in Honduras, photographed by Terry Rombeck. I find that beautiful pictures like this one below help restore some balance to all the bad news.



I’ve found another reason to move to Honduras. It ranks 7th in the world in the Happy Planet Index (HPI). This is an innovative new measure that aims to show the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world.

The HPI reflects the average years of happy life produced by a given society, nation or group of nations, per unit of planetary resources consumed. Put another way, it represents the efficiency with which countries convert the earth’s finite resources into well-being experienced by their citizens.

Vanuatu was no. 1. New Zealand ranks 78th.  The USA 150th.  The lowest ranked country is Zimbabwe (178).  The countries that scored best were Latin American and island nations (Caribbean and Pacific).  I find this fascinating.  The richest and the poorest scored badly.  The rich presumably because of thier high resource consumption, and the poorest for thier life expectancy.  Here is the authors interpretations:

Island nations score well above average in the Index: They have higher life satisfaction, higher life expectancy and marginally lower Footprints than other states. Yet incomes (by GDP per capita) are roughly equal to the world average. Even within regions, islands do well. Malta tops the Western world with Cyprus in seventh place (out of 24); the top five HPI nations in Africa are all islands; as well as two of the top four in Asia. Perhaps a more acute awareness of environmental limits has sometimes helped their societies to bond better and to adapt to get more from less. Combined with the enhanced well-being that stems from close contact with nature, the world as a whole stands to learn much from the experience of islands.

It is possible to live long, happy lives with a much smaller environmental impact: For example, in the United States and Germany people’s sense of life satisfaction is almost identical and life expectancy is broadly similar. Yet Germany’s Ecological Ecological footprint is only about half that of the USA. This means that Germany is around twice as efficient as the USA at generating happy long lives based on the resources that they consume.

You can also calculate your personal score on the website.  My score on was 43.1. What’s yours?

What the World Eats

June 6, 2007

Check out this amazing photo essay from the book “Hungry Planet”. I think I want that book!

usa.jpg mexico.jpg chad.jpg

What stands out for me from these photos is the the amount of packaging in all but the poorest of households.  The more developed the less “real” the food seems to be.

Thanks to littlewoodenman for this link.

Upside down world

June 1, 2007

I have just come across Upside down world,

an online magazine uncovering activism and politics in Latin America. Founded in 2003,  it is made up of work from writers, activists, artists and regular citizens from around the globe who are interested in flipping the world upside down…or right side up. Upside Down World provides concerned global citizens with independent reporting on Latin American social movements and governments that have refused to prostrate themselves to the interests of corporate globalization, and instead have focused their work on addressing the needs of the people.

There are some very interesting articles posted, from all corners of Latin America and on a variety of topics-

From Bolivia’s gas conflicts to worker-run factories in Argentina, from Guatemalan resistance to mining to the new political process in Venezuela .

They have just published an article on the Goldcorp mine in Honduras, something I have posted about before(here and here).  Here are some excerpts from the article:

The results of the latest water quality and health study, which was released on February 7th of this year (2007), show that water sources -including a domestic use well built by the company- have higher levels of copper and iron than even the generous amounts allowed by the World Bank guidelines for open pit mining areas… of the ten local people to have had their blood sampled, every single one has quantities of lead and arsenic in their blood at a level considered “very dangerous” by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Leslie Yaritza Perez hasn’t given up on waiting for the day when her baby, 18 month old Carla, will start walking. Carla still can’t support her body weight, and has little control over her legs… Carla’s father works at the mine, and their family home in Palo Ralo is a stone’s throw away from where the company built a well for the displaced community, which was later found to be contaminated with arsenic.

Honduran mining law stipulates that mining concessions can be cancelled if the mining activity “affects or damages water, air, flora, fauna, the community and the general ecosystem.” The government, led by President Manuel Zelaya, has shown little will to back the concerns of the communities and suspend Goldcorp’s concession in Honduras… For now, the battle lines have been drawn. Communities dealing with illness and water contamination, which is affecting their children more than anyone else, are on one side. Goldcorp, a major gold company waging an expensive public relations campaign is on the other.