December 15th, 2010
The UN Cancun summit on climate change has drawn to a close, but were the talks were a success? That question is debatable. The international community has agreed to create a “green” fund of approximately $100 billion dollars (which will be overseen by the World Bank) to aid developing countries in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation. Developed nations have vowed to lend their developing neighbors the technology they need to tackle their climate change plight. Delegates at the summit consented to restrict the rise in temperature to a further 1.5°C (2.7°F). However, the accord doesn’t delineate any details about how these goals ought to be achieved. Perhaps next year’s summit in Durban will reveal more.
How has the public received the results of the climate talks? Critics are of two minds about the effectiveness of the Cancun agreement. Optimistic supporters of the summit’s conclusion see Cancun as a step forward to building a worldwide consensus on climate change, at least relative to 2009’s Copenhagen summit, which failed miserably. They believe that, for the first time, the global community has unanimously acknowledged that the world’s citizens need to do more to curb climate change. Opponents say that the Cancun agreement is full of holes. While countries have pledged to reduce carbon emissions, their assurances are not legally binding, which could result in a lack of commitment and empty promises. Some scientists argue that, even if all the goals of the Cancun agreement are fulfilled, the Earth’s temperature will still rise by 3.5°C to 4°C (approximately 7°F),, leaving much of the planet uninhabitable.
The issue of climate change is a very delicate one – environmentally, socially, economically and politically. To see how and why opinions differ, check out these diverging ideas on how to solve the problem:
December 10th, 2010
In 1895, Alfred Nobel signed his last will and testament, which stipulated that the majority of his riches would fund a series of prizes that recognized excellence in literature and the sciences. He also created a prize to acknowledge “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
In October, the Nobel Committee announced that Chinese poet Liu Xiaobo would be the recipient of the 2010 Peace award. Liu, a veteran of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, is currently serving an 11-year jail sentence for co-writing Chapter 08, a petition calling for greater freedom of speech, a separation of powers and human rights reforms in China. The Chinese government believes Liu’s actions incite violence and disrupt social harmony, and it is outraged that the Nobel Committee would honor a “common criminal.” The Chinese have called for other states to boycott the award ceremony. To date, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Russia, Serbia, Venezuela, Cuba, Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka have confirmed that representatives of their nations will not attend the celebrations.
In a rebuff against the Nobel Peace Prize, the Chinese have coined their own award, the Confucius Peace Prize. The first winner is Taiwan’s former vice-president Lien Chan for his role in brokering closer relations between Beijing and Taipei.
It’s not the first time that the Nobel Peace Prize has been steeped in controversy. In 2009, President Barack Obama won the award, to the dismay of many people who thought that his victory belittled the efforts of people around the world who risk their lives on a daily basis to achieve peace and human rights. As crazy as this sounds today, Henry Kissinger won the award in 1973 for his role in the Vietnam Accord, despite his actions in numerous political storms: the 1969-1975 bombing campaign on Cambodia, the invasion of Cyprus and the overthrow of Salvador Allende, the democratically elected president of Chile, to name but a few. Mahatma Gandhi never received the award, despite being nominated five times.
To learn about some worthy winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, check out the following links:
December 6th, 2010
A McKinsey report has revealed that the United States spends approximately $160 billion annually on obesity-related medical costs, up 50% from 10 years ago. That figure could double by 2018. The study also illustrates that including factors such as “incremental food expenses, plus-size clothing and weigh-loss programs” in the calculation brings the annual economic burden of obesity in the US to $450 billion.
Meanwhile, in an effort to quash the idea that carbohydrates are responsible for America’s obesity problem, Chris Voigt, the executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, endured a diet of potatoes, and nothing but potatoes, for 60 days. In the process, he lost 21 pounds (9.5 kilograms). Voigt ate 20 potatoes – boiled, baked, fried, mashed and grated – every day for two months straight (that’s a whopping 1,200 spuds), without adding any toppings or dairy products to his staple food. His protest diet aimed to prove that potatoes have nutritional value and are not the “scourge of the earth.”
By starving himself of vital vitamins and minerals, Voigt may have done some irreparable damage to his body. There are better ways to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle. Here are some ideas from the experts: