issue 242 - April 1993
...that have always intrigued you about the world will appear in this,
your section, and be answered by other readers. Please address
your answers and questions to ‘Curiosities’.
By eating animals reared on crops grown in Third World countries am I helping such countries to get foreign currency and break out of the debt trap or should I refrain from meat-eating in the hope that crops will be redirected to the mouths of the poor?
There is no simple answer. One certainty is that the Third World’s debt will never be repaid on the strength of earnings on cash crops. Global trading patterns and terms of international trade must be modified and the thorny question of debt relief addressed.
Ultimately a state’s or region’s agriculture must be directed towards producing food in a sustainable way for the population’s consumption, not to meet the luxury needs of others. But refraining from meat-eating alone will not put food crops back into the mouths of the Third World’s poor.
What we can do is exercise ‘consumer power’ by buying food derived from sustainable, organic farming, lobby for more equal terms of trade and put pressure on our governments and banks to reduce the Third World debt burden.
Timothy Strang (Farmers World Network member)
Lampeter, Cymru, UK
Is it true that the UK is still paying for the World War One and to whom?
Yes, the cost being borne through taxation and borrowing from individuals and institutions in Britain and elsewhere. But the British Government of the time was able to borrow on very favourable terms with the result that 98 per cent of the original value of the loan has disappeared through inflation.
The direct financial cost question is fairly easy to answer, but what about the hidden costs? Was it World War One which started Britain’s industrial decline? And what about the cost of the race for sophisticated and expensive armaments into which that war plunged us?
It could be suggested that we pay the elderly veterans who fought in that war in the form of their tiny pensions.
Who first used the expression ‘charity begins at home’, to whom and why?
The phrase goes back earlier than suggested by the two correspondents in NI 241. It was first used by Publius Terentius Afer (more commonly known as Terence), a major Roman comic dramatist. He was born in Carthage in about 185 BC, taken to Rome as a slave and then earned both an education and his freedom by impressing his masters with his abilities. He wrote comedies from which the modern comedies of manners are loosely descended. The phrase comes from one of his plays but unfortunately I do not know any more about the play in question.
What are the origins and meaning of the expression ‘ethnic cleansing’?
Who first used it?
Bishops Castle, UK
Mosquitoes and other insects insert the equivalent of a micro needle into a variety of human bloods. So why are they not in the list of transmitters of HIV?
Why is the depletion of the ozone layer greatest in the southern hemisphere when the use of ozone-destroying chemicals is greatest in the northern hemisphere?
Llandona, Cymru, UK
I’ve heard that part of the ceremony of Pope-making involves touching of the testicles. If this is true, how and why did this curious custom come about?
If you have any questions or answers please send them to Curiosities,
New Internationalist, 55 Rectory Road, Oxford OX4 1BW, UK,
or to your local NI office (click here for addresses).