Unsustainable supermarkets

The next time you bite into that seemingly luscious red strawberry – in January – think about this article…

Are supermarkets facing the beginning of the end?

We, in the West, really do face a number of hypocritical decisions and actions on a daily basis. Many of us recycle, but then we go buy more “stuff”; we love our “self-propelled” activities, but then drive our cars to enjoy them; we eat healthy diets, but demand unquestionably unsustainable fruits & veg all winter long.

For most North Americans, it’s possible to have virtually the same health benefits by purchasing locally-grown fruit and veg in season – even through the winter – especially the veg because eating vegetables is far healthier than eating fruit. But let’s face it, selling beets, carrots and cabbages is not as sexy as strawberries, kiwis, avocados, mangos, etc. And lettuce in January is, perhaps, the least sustainable of all. Imagine transporting a truckload of plants from Mexico or California that are 96% water, all this way, just to add a few micronutrients to our table.

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Ploughshares and Conflict Studies

ploughsharesDYK: In one year (2014), the world spent over $1.6 trillion on the military, over 1/3 of which was spent by one country…the United States.

DYK: The United States spends more on their military than the rest of NATO (#2) China(#3), Saudi Arabia (#4), Russia (#5), India and Japan COMBINED!!

Lately, I’ve been working with my Canadian and World Studies students on Conflict Studies. This has come out of our work in Current Affairs classes (once per week) which seems, every week, to revolve around conflicts. There is always, always, always conflicts in the news, but very little understanding around who is actually involved and why it’s happening in the first place. There is only so much a news organization can bring into a 30-second sound bite, which is what so much of the news is made up of.

ploughsharesEnter Project Ploughshares. Project Ploughshares started back in the 1970s. It grew out of a Mennonite Central Committee background and currently operates as an arms-length project of in the Canadian Council of Churches. To quote its website:

Project Ploughshares takes its name and its vision from the ancient biblical vision in the Book of Isaiah in which the material and human wealth consumed by military preparations are transformed into resources for human development, thereby removing the roots of war itself.

“God shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war any more.” Isaiah 2:4

The value of ploughshares.ca is many-fold. It is a local organization to us, operating out of Kitchener, Ontario. It is dedicated to bettering the world: “A secure world without war • A just world at peace”. And, equally important, is its unbiased (read: “not churchy”),  authoritative/credible documentation of the numerous conflicts plaguing the planet today. Each year, it produces an Armed Conflict Report with a summary, interactive map and poster, to summarize the various conflicts, locations, combatants and human toll. My students are using the website to create info-posters to help others understand the background of what’s going on around the world.

It has been a real eye-opener for my students. They are beginning to see the complexity of each conflict with multiple layers of historical background and multi-party support of each side. They are also seeing the huge human toll, not just in news clips of a thousand here and 10,000 there, but in terms of the millions of people who have been internally and externally displaced over the years. They have also come to realize there is a whole area of study at the university level called Peace and Conflict Studies. Just one more realization of “what’s out there”.

Ships designed to ship other shipping ships

ShippingHere’s one for the GeoTransportation page, but don’t let that stop you from reading on…

The National Geographic Education Blog has a great write up and accompanying videos on Container Shipping. I know, your eyes are glazing over – but before they do, have a look. It’s actually an intricate process and one that demands an incredible understanding of logistics: planning and co-ordinating cargo to fill each ship, planning and co-ordinating the routes of all the myriad ships plying the waters and timing their entrances to such bottlenecks as the Suez and Panama Canals, not to mention off-loading and filling the same ship up with different cargo for a new destination.

As I said above, I have added this link to the Transportation page of GeoKnow.net. And, while you’re there, you will see the live feed for FlightRadar24 – an app that tracks ALL (well, almost all) flights around the world. Guess what? There’s one for shipping, too. Head over to ShipFinder to discover all the ships that ply the waters of the world in (almost) real time. Fascinating!

Susan Ormiston: Dying for cheap clothes, lessons of the Bangladesh disaster

An excellent article as a follow-up from the Bangladesh manufacturing plant collapse. Some call it business, others call it the price of progress. But, we in the west continue to enjoy cheap prices for clothing, toys, other plastic goods and, yes, electronics, all on the backs of poor people in developing countries who will do just about anything to earn wages – even when they are starvation wages.

Read it here: http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/06/14/f-vp-ormiston.html There is also a video on the CBC page..

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