‘There has been considerable talk about unemployment in the developed world,’ commented Farooq Sobhan, Bangladesh’s Ambassador to the UN. ‘I believe the figure is 30 million plus in OECD countries (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). But consider that one country alone, Brazil has more unemployed than that, or that in India this figure could be doubled, or that in a country such as my own, Bangladesh, the figure of unemployment may cover as much as 50 per cent of the work-force. Consider that we are, for the large part, without any social security system, so that really unemployment means more than unemployment.’
From World Development Forum Vol. 1 No. 16.
US acts at last
The first attempt in the US to implement the WHO Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (1981) is finally being made in Washington DC. (The US was the only country to vote against the Code when it was passed in Geneva at the World Health Assembly by 118 votes to 1.) A bill known as the Infant Feeding Rights Act would give women the right to be free from ‘undue commercial influence’ such as free samples of baby-milk formula and literature from infant formula companies. It also seeks to reform hospital procedures that interfere with a mothers opportunity to initiate breastfeeding in the period following delivery.
From Multinational Monitor, May 83.
Coke as ORS
Children suffering from mild dehydration are sometimes given Coca-Cola to drink because its supposedly high potassium content is believed to help replace lost fluids and electrolytes. (UNICEF’s Oral Rehydration Salts packets include potassium as an ingredient.) But a Swiss doctor who has analysed samples of Coca-Cola and similar branded drinks sold in Switzerland, the US and Canada reports that the potassium content is negligible.
From the Lancet, 26.2.83.
After checking the air filters at a monitoring station in northernmost Alaska, researchers were astounded. The filters were choked with carbonous soot. New screens were inserted, but within a week they too were clogged.
We thought we could better understand pollution if we examined a pollution-free atmosphere,’ said Hul Rosen of the Atmospheric Aerosol Research Group. ‘Now we’ve got to explain this.’
From The Star, Malaysia, 8.5.83
Flaky Taj Mahal
The giant Mathura oil refinery, which has cost India 2.5 billion rupees ($257 million), has been inaugurated despite protests from environmentalists. The refinery, India’s largest, is located only 40 kilometres from the Taj Mahal. The fear is that the refinery effluents will discolour and corrode the brilliant white Taj marble and cause it to flake. The Taj has already lost much of its pearly sheen because of high concentrations of sulphur dioxide from nearly 300 foundries in the vicinity.
From the Business Times, Malaysia, 16.5.83
Red light on fireplaces
Residents of Beaver Creek, in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, can’t throw another log onto their fire whenever they choose. If a certain red light is flashing in their homes, they are required to let their fires die out.
The light is hooked into a central computer system that monitors the valley’s air pollution. When the thin, easily defiled mountain air is choked with too much wood smoke, lights in each home flash on. Homeowners who ignore the lights get a polite phone call reminding them to let the fires die.
From International Wildlife May/June 83.
Losing the rice race
A new variety of miracle rice developed by Chinese scientists, could deepen Asia’s social inequalities. It is a hybrid that can increase yields 20 to 30 per cent, higher even than those achieved by the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines. The trouble is the rice can only be bred by sophisticated artificial means and its seeds are infertile, so farmers will have to buy new seeds every season. Once more, the poorer farmers will be left out of the rice race.
For the seed companies, hybrid varieties are an opportunity to enter the rice market in a big way. The process of crossbreeding is a complex one which only specialised agriculturalists can carry out — and the farmer becomes dependent on the companies for his supply.
From Consumer Currents No. 59.
Money to burn
5-6 million tonnes of straw that British farmers send up in smoke has a potential value of £500 million ($750m). It could supply all of British agriculture’s needs for heating, has uses in animal feed, livestock bedding and in the construction and chemical industries.
According to a new report by Friends of the Earth. ‘Straw-burning typifies the worst of British agriculture: limitless subsidies for over-production, over-reliance on chemicals and the jettisoning of workers in favour of machines and intensive use of energy. It destroys any credibility that farmers have as representing an industry that cares for the countryside.
From FoE report ‘Strawburning: You’d Think Farmers Had Money To Burn’ 4.8.83.
Bubbling with ideas
Fiji’s luxury coconut-based soaps are shortly to be launched in Australia and New Zealand. Coconut is a more costly raw material than petrochemical oils but changes in fashion and concern about health have led to a revival of interest in natural raw materials in industrialised countries.
If it doesn’t lather, eat it. Another new idea, still in the development stage, is coconut cheese. It has as much protein as milk-based cheese and is reported to taste as good.
Front Common wealth Currents, Aug. 83
‘Perhaps you are familiar with the easily-made three-coloured tapes for measuring the mid-arm circumference of one to five year old children. The gradations give a quick guide to their nutritional status. A child with a large mid-arm measurement (green) is fine, one with a middle measurement (yellow) is at risk, and one with a small measurement (red) is in very poor condition.
1 carry around a bundle of these tapes in my pocket when I visit a village. In the tea house, children come to stare at the stranger. I take out a tape and play with it for a while. As the children become curious with my ‘toy’. I beckon to the boldest, measure his arm and show him how to do it. I suggest a small prize for any ‘yellow’ children he can bring me.
Other children are eager to join in the game and scatter through the village. . . The experts in knowing where all the under-fives are to be found are the children. With a little organisation, preferably as a game, children can be mobilised to undertake all kinds of development tasks. What is more, they can do it as a fraction of the time and expense that any health personnel could manage.
From David Drucker, consultant to UNDP and UNICEF.