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Questions 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’.

Whatever happened to Wangari Maathai, reported in the April 1992 issue of NI as having been clubbed unconscious? Did she recover and where is she now?

Unstoppable Maathai, showing the environmental award she won in 1993 in Edinburgh.

Back in action and still working with the Green Belt Movement she founded in Nairobi, as far as I know. She seems to have recovered sufficiently from the injuries sustained during her arrest to have been a spokesperson for non-governmental organizations at the Earth Summit in Rio in June 1992. Earlier this year she delivered the Schumacher lecture, a series organized by the Schumacher College based in Devon, England. She is also listed as a member of the commission on Global Governance (which brings together such an unlikely combination of people as Barber Conable, Allan Boesak, Jacques Delors, Oscar Arias, Frank Judd and Maurice Strong) and is mentioned in their recently published report entitled Our Global Neighbourhood.

BJ Brown
Oxford, England

Which ‘Third World’ countries have democratic governments, free and non-fraudulent
elections and good human-rights records?

Not many countries in the world – whether in the South or the North – meet all of the above criteria. The US – where some states retain the death penalty – fails the human-rights test. Britain – with its lack of a written Constitution and its non-elected House of Lords – fails the democracy test. Some of the democracies in Latin America do rather better: Costa Rica and Nicaragua, for example. The new democracies of the Southern cone – Uruguay, Argentina and Chile – seem to have moved quite rapidly away from their oppressive past and are doing relatively well. In Africa, the new South Africa looks hopeful. Botswana, Zambia and Cape Verde aren’t doing too badly.

However, it is all relative, and true democracy and a ‘good’ human-rights record – as opposed to one which is not too bad – are rare things indeed.

Sarah James
Glasgow, Scotland

awaiting your answers

The February 1995 issue of NI informed us that 1999 will be the International Year of Ageing.
What other themes are planned for 1996, 1997 and 1998?

Andrew Leigh
Pennant Hills, Australia

Where does one get the seeds to grow a seedless grape vine?

James Phillips
Wigston, England

Is there any evidence that matriarchal cultures were (or are, where they exist)
more egalitarian than patriarchal ones?

Martin Ferreira
Montreal, Canada

Last year Kenya’s ruler, Daniel arap Moi, commented that he intended to channel aid towards people who supported him and away from those who did not. In the light of this, have any of the organizations that provide aid for Kenya changed their policies or taken steps to ensure that their aid really does go to those in need?

Michael Lumber
Granada, Spain

How did human beings learn to take hard, inedible seeds, grind them up,
mix them with water and cook them to get something they could eat?

Susan Atherton
Telford, England

What are revolutionaries such as Leila Khaled, Daniel Cohn Bendit, Bernadette Devlin, No Nguyen Giap,
Bobby Seale, Abu Nidal and Wadi Haddad doing now?

J Cotton
Loughton, England.

Has anyone calculated the extent to which Britain’s former colonies helped make Britain
a ‘developed’ nation? What has been their economic impact over the centuries?

David Salter
Cardiff, Wales

Can anyone tell me if there are any environmental organizations which take direct action
of a militant nature against those responsible for destruction of the rainforests in
South and Central America and in South-East Asia?

S Davies
London, England

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 (see inside front cover for addresses).


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©Copyright: New Internationalist 1995

New Internationalist issue 267 magazine cover This article is from the May 1995 issue of New Internationalist.
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