New Internationalist

Internationalist News

December 2002

Earthships are taking off

Houses like this one (above) are made from recycled material: outer walls are made of tyres rammed with earth and inner walls built using cans, bottles and cement. They are called ‘earthships’. According to the Low Carbon Network, Britain generates 40 million used tyres each year. This growing tyre mountain could build 20,000 new earthships each year. Developed in the US, they are now found in Chile, Bolivia, Belgium, Scotland, Mexico, Honduras, South Africa and Japan.

More information and photos at the Earthships website.

Solar bridge for peace-building

Peace is being forged through joint environmental activism by bringing solar energy to four villages in Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Egypt. Arab-Ka’abneh (West Bank, Palestine) is the first of these villages: in March 1999 it received electricity for the first time. To achieve this, researchers from the four partner countries, who had never previously met because of regional politics, worked co-operatively and will continue to do so for other sites.

More information at the Greenstar Solar Community Center website.

Gender awareness boards Montreal’s buses

The city’s ‘Between two stops’ service reduces women’s fear of violence by allowing women to get off the bus at night between two stops at a place closer to their destination.

More information at the UN Habitat website.

Car-free Bogotá

In its October 2000 referendum the majority of voters in the Colombian capital of Bogotá said they wanted all cars off the streets between 6.00 am and 9.00 am and between 4:30 pm and 7:30 pm every weekday from January 2015 onwards. Constitutional interpretations later demanded a higher voter turnout for the referendum to be become a legal mandate. Nevertheless it proved that it is possible for city people to see different and better ways of organizing life and transport: a direction along which the city continues. About 120 kilometers of main city arteries are now closed to motor vehicles for 7 hours each Sunday so that Bogotá’s 6.5 million people can use them for bicycling, jogging and getting together. In addition, the first Thursday of February every year has been promoted and now set aside as a Car Free Day: an initiative that has attracted enormous public support.

Brazil’s doctors of happiness

Working one-on-one with chronically ill children, their parents and healthcare professionals, these ‘doctors of delight’ help ease the stress of illness by injecting laughter into hospital life. Over 250,000 children have been visited in 9 hospitals during the first 11 years of the initiative.

More information at UN Habitat and Doutores de Alegria. (see activists guide);

Organic farming in city streets

Christchurch, AOTEAROA/NEW ZEALAND – The world’s first organic city – plants colourful arrays of vegetables and herbs in its city flower beds. The city actively promotes an environment free from pesticides, herbicides and genetic engineering, where people can take back control over food supplies simply by growing their own.

More information at Organic Pathways.

Ugandan women on the internet

The internet’s offer of libraries of material in English, Chinese and Spanish isn’t much use to people living in rural Africa. Now, with just the click of a mouse, a CD-rom program being piloted (see left) in Nakaseke, 50 miles north of the Ugandan capital of Kampala, is talking to illiterate women farmers about how to market their produce in their own language. Because the text on the screen is read out, the program is also helping the women to learn to read. The CD-roms are not only popular, they also improve the living standards of those who use them. And the knowledge that the women have gained has both made them role models and improved the respect their ideas are given in their community.

The internet’s offer of libraries of material in English, Chinese and Spanish isn’t much use to people living in rural Africa. Now, with just the click of a mouse, a CD-rom program being piloted (see left) in Nakaseke, 50 miles north of the Ugandan capital of Kampala, is talking to illiterate women farmers about how to market their produce in their own language. Because the text on the screen is read out, the program is also helping the women to learn to read. The CD-roms are not only popular, they also improve the living standards of those who use them. And the knowledge that the women have gained has both made them role models and improved the respect their ideas are given in their community.

Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 352 This feature was published in the December 2002 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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