New Internationalist

Briefly…

Issue 122

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[image, unknown] BRIEFLY...

[image, unknown] CONGRATULATIONS[image, unknown]

Nobel alternative

A Swedish stamp dealer, Jakob von Uexkull, who believes that Nobel Prizes reward ‘the wrong kind of knowledge, which is often irrelevant and irresponsible’, three years ago instituted an ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’ to ‘support those working on practical solutions to the real problems of the world today’.

The ‘Alternative’ award is presented in Stockholm on the day before the official Nobel Prize ceremony. The winners are selected by the Right to Livelihood Foundation, an international panel which includes Robert Muller. Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations.

1982’s winners include Petra Kelly, leader of the West German ‘Greens’, the burgeoning peace and environmental movement Sir George Trevelyan, perhaps best known for his work in bringing together conventional and ‘alternative’ medical practitioners; a group working to further self-reliant development in rural Asia, called the Participatory Institute for Development Alternatives; and a particular friend of the New Internationalist, Anwar Fazal, president of the International Organisation of Consumers Unions, based in Penang. Malaysia Our congratulations to them all.

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[image, unknown] SAFETY AT WORK[image, unknown]

50 million accidents

Although the accident frequency rate in the industrialised world has levelled out, the rate of fatal accidents in developing countries has doubled or even tripled. The increase, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), is largely attributable to ‘the negative effects of transfer of technology’.

It estimates that there are some 50 million work-related accidents every year — that’s 160,000 every day — many of which result in permanent disability: a heavy price for the developing world to pay for its rush toward industrial and agricultural development.

From IRDC Reports.

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[image, unknown] FOOD[image, unknown]

Genetic cocktails

Can genetic diversity, once lost, be artificially restored?

The Green Revolution brought about a drastic reduction in genetic diversity on Third World farms. The myriads of traditional varieties that farmers used for centuries were rapidly replaced by a few high-yielding varieties specifically chosen by agricultural scientists. The genetic cocktail that nature painstakingly evolved is, therefore, giving way to a man-made genetic uniformity.

Only eleven ‘parents’ have been used to breed the rice varieties developed by the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines and planted all the way from Korea to India Only three parents — Kalyan Sona, Sonalike and Lerma Rojo — have been used to breed most of the wheat varieties being planted in India.

But such vast monocultures have little resistance against pests: a virulent strain can sweep through them like wildfire. So scientists are now taking the cue from nature and trying to breed artificial genetic cocktails. known ‘mutiline’ varieties.

Will farmers accept mutilines? The quality of mutiline flour is not as uniform; mutiline seeds can’t be saved for planting from the last crop— they have to be re-bought each year: and farmers don’t like to change crops unless they find a fault with their existing variety. But the realisation may come too late in the case of a crop wiped out by a pest epidemic.

From Report No. 60, Centre for Science and Development, India.

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[image, unknown] AGRICULTURE[image, unknown]

Organic is efficient

After a year-long study of 69 farms in 23 states, the US Department of Agriculture has concluded that organic farms produce five times more per unit of energy consumed than conventional farms.

The study’s findings coincide with the conclusions of a Washington University research team, which found that the yields of organic farms are roughly equal to conventional farms, but their costs are much lower.

From Consumer Currents No. 50.

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[image, unknown] POPULATION[image, unknown]

Nasal contraception

Researchers are presently working on a nasal spray contraceptive expected to be equally effective for men and women. The spray. used once a day, releases a substance known as LHRH (Lutenising Hormone-Releasing Hormone) which is produced in both female and male bodies. In the woman it controls ovulation and tn the man, sperm production. The spray has been tested in West Germany and is now under study’ in Sweden, Brazil and Chile.

From Media Monitor, Australia

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[image, unknown] DISARMAMENT[image, unknown]

Hoarding for peace

‘The average British family spent £18 a week on arms last year,’ announces a poster from the Peace Advertising Campaign. ‘And that’s before Trident’

The poster, strikingly printed in yellow and black, is available in sizes up to ten feet high. The idea is to use it on hoardings across the country. Last year the group put up some 700 posters all over Britain — one strategically placed outside the Imperial War Museum.

The campaign’s founder, Tony Crofts, explains that the mass media work well at selling detergent— so why not use them to sell peace? The present chairman of the group. Patrick Coulter, adds: ‘The great thing about taking a billboard site is that it’s something that an individual or group can do quite easily which will have a direct impact on their community. Thousands of people will be exposed to the message.’ It costs around £60 ($100) to post a ten-foot poster for a month.

From Peace Advertising Campaign press information.

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[image, unknown] FOOD[image, unknown]

Psychology of hunger

The next time you’re in a supermarket checkout line, you might give a moment’s reflection to the great fact — one of the central facts in American history— that North America is the only continent that has never experienced a great famine and does not have massive, castrophic hunger in its memory.

The American government sometimes worries about the price of food but never about the availability of it. That puts the Americans in a radically different position — one that is much more comfortable than that of just about any government in the wide expanse from the Oder River eastward to the China Sea.

From the Washington Post.

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Endquote

‘Before the end of this century, a score of nations could possess nuclear weapons. If this should happen, the world that we leave our children will mock our own hopes for peace. The level of nuclear armaments could grow by tens of thousands , and the same situation could well occur with advanced conventional weapons. The temptation to use these weapons, for fear that someone else might do so first, would be almost irresistible.’

Jimmy Carter, Address to UN General Assembly 4 Oct 1977.

‘We must either live together as brothers or we are going to perish together as fools.’

Martin Luther King

‘Mere praise of peace is easy, but ineffective. What is needed is active participation in the fight against war and everything that leads to it’

Albert Einstein 1953.

‘Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.’

Edmund Burke (1729-1797).

‘The sufferings of the poor are, indeed, less observed than their misdeeds; not from any want of compassion but because they are less known; and this is the true reason why we so often hear them mentioned with abhorrence and so seldom with pity. . . They starve, and freeze, and rot among themselves, but they beg, and steal and rob among their betters.’

Henry Fielding in ‘A Proposal for makiilg an Effectual Proviston for the Poor (1753).


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