May 17, 2012 § Leave a comment
I very much appreciated the transparency of this report. Not only does UNFPA present different methods for assessing maternal mortality, they also describe their own methods in detail.
As an important aside, “maternal mortality” is defined as : the death of a woman while pregant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggrevated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes.
For those of you who are visually inclined, there is also a video: http://bcove.me/vw4nf3v2
The report shows that from 1990 to 2010, the annual number of maternal deaths dropped from more than 543,000 to 287,000 – a decline of 47 percent. While substantial progress has been achieved in almost all regions, many countries particularly in sub-Saharan Africa will fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing maternal death by 75 per cent from 1990 to 2015. In happier news, ten countries have already reached the MDG target of a 75 per cent reduction in maternal death: Belarus, Bhutan, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Iran, Lithuania, Maldives, Nepal, Romania and Viet Nam.
In 2010, the global maternal mortality ratio was 210 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest maternal mortality ratio at 500 maternal deaths per 100,000 live…
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May 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
Amnesty International has developed a unique way to help the bell toll more clearly for all of us. They have created a web app (which is very quick and easy to use) that connects to your Facebook account and summarizes how many of your friends would suffer various human rights violations if you lived in the given country that you select (e.g. Syria, North Korea or the DRC). It only takes about a minute to complete, and suddenly you see the faces of your friends matched up against titles such as “murdered,” or “could die from lack of medical care,” “battered,” or “illiterate.”
Yes, there are broad generalizations being made here and things are a bit out of context, but the point of the app is clear. Would we care more if it really were our friends and families suffering human rights violations?
Of course we would.
When I ran the app, one of my friends who just had a baby was assigned to the “died in childbirth” category. Suddenly affect kicked in.
See if you can make the conceptual link between the video above and the video below (there is one cuss word, for those with kids around):
May 14, 2012 § Leave a comment
Antarctica is a desert. It’s the coldest continent on earth, with world record low of -128.6 °F (−89.2 °C). It’s one and a half time the size of the US and 98% covered in ice that averages 1 mile in thickness. It’s home to about 1150 species of fungi and numerous other invertebrates, penguins and marine life (but not polar bears).
Antarctica is more than just an animal habitat or a geographic oddity, however. It’s also one of the world’s most important natural labs. Antarctica has a profound effect on the Earth’s climate and ocean systems, and it plays a crucial role in our understanding of global climate change. Locked within its ice is record of what our planet’s history over millions of years. We need to preserve it.
The National Science Foundation funds an incredible amount of Antarctic research (watch their live webcam of the Southern Lights and South Pole here, and learn about general living conditions in the South Pole here). Researchers in Antarctica include biologists, geologists, oceanographers, physicists, astronomers, glaciologists, meteorologists…and even artists. Their subjects of study range from nothing less than “the history of the universe” to marine life and dinosaurs, and from the ozone to global warming and waterproof glue. In fact, many astronomical observations are better made from the interior of Antarctica than from most surface locations. This is because of high elevation, low water vapor in the air, and the absence of light pollution.
(Antoher great link to Antarctic research, from the San Francisco Exploratorium)
The view of space from the interior of Antarctica is clearer than anywhere else on Earth.
In 1959, 12 nations signed the Antarctic Treaty (now there are 49 signatories), which provides the legal framework for land beyond 60º South latitude. It regulates environmental protection measures for expeditions, stations, and visitors; waste-management provisions; a ban on mining; establishment of specially protected areas; and agreements for the protection of seals and other marine living resources. But in recent years, tourism to Antarctica has drastically increased, with 33,824 visitors in 2010/2011. Compared to, say, the Sistine Chapel (at about 10,000 visitors/day) Antarctica is still untouched. But considering its pristine climate and fragile atmosphere, 33,000+ is massive. We must be careful. There are certainly caps on tourism and heavy regulation, but the onus is largely upon us as visitors to this solitary place to be careful.
Money can buy so much, but I hope that it never buys big ships that are vulnerable to sinking and spreading waste in a place like Antarctica. Money can buy so much, but I hope that it never buys a candy bar whose wrapper ends up on the shore of Deception Island.
The photos here are some that I captured on a recent trip (larger if you click on them). Yes, I was one of the tourists–a member of a photo expedition. I hope now, however, to act as journalist and advocate. I tried very carefully to scrub my boots in the antimicrobial liquid each day. I kept my distance from the wildlife, and I kept my mittens close at all times. You have to take these things seriously. Little as they seem.
One of the things that amazed me most about Antarctica (in case you’ve not yet been captured by its importance), was it’s flux. On my trip there, passing through the Drake doped up on Dramamine, I wondered why so many of my fellow passengers were on their third, fifth, or fifteenth trip across that most rugged stretch of water. At the time, it seemed like an awful lot of money, an awful lot of effort, and an awful lot of rocking to get somewhere. But as the sea settled and the ice began, my opinion quickly changed. The place was so martian. So majestic. So secluded. And, yes, so pristine. I’d go back a million times if it didn’t hurt the place (and if money weren’t an issue). The most amazing part, however, is that no two trips would ever be the same.
Yes, every day is different. But in Antarctica the world is made of ice. So imagine a place in which the shapes of buildings and trees changed from hour to hour and moved from week to week. That is Antarctica. Watching the icebergs was like watching a slowly shifting sky of clouds.
If you still aren’t convinced and awe-struck at its import and beauty, I suggest watching the BBC’s breath-taking Frozen Planet.
We have very few sanctuaries left in this world that have not been touched and tainted by our own hands. Although few of us will ever make it to Antarctica, I promise that its silence and its strangeness, to say nothing of its scientific significance, would be a shame on us all to spoil.
Even if none of us ever went there again–even if all the studies and research stopped-I would still believe that Antarctica is precious and imperative to protect.
Because it is.
See Antarctica from googlearth
For those averse to cold or vulnerable to sea sickness, there are sanctuaries for you to protect as well:
May 10, 2012 § 3 Comments
I am one who loves the process of learning. I’ve been hurt by the information gleaned in this process, more than once, but I don’t regret it.
(Human rights is a topic that can grant stories you’ll wish you could wish to forget. But you can’t.)
I still welcome new ideas and new information, and I hope to meet them with discernment. However, I also recognize that it is a proclivity (subconscious?) among us, to at times prefer ignorance and the status quo above the inconvenience of a fact.
This poem is meant to wake us if we’re humming in feigned ignorance around facts (i.e. brass tacks) that we cannot bare to believe. It’s here to ask us to listen and look for truth wherever it is, with real intent to listen, humbly, and to remember…not to just swallow what we’re told or stop with what we see in our tiny spheres. This is a task that requires us to seek with many versions of our eyes, and from many perspectives, time and time again. It’s a task that must be done with a strong heart.
“Getting down to the brass tacks.”
If you reach the bare facts—the fundamentals of an issue—you’ve reached the brass tacks.
Those penny pins, used to prick walls and hang like creeds the posters of our periodic table in the classrooms of our youth.
Alloy of copper and zinc; maker of zippers and locks…the bullets of a loaded gun and ting ringing of a bell.
Facts: verifications we’ll grip so hard at times,
our palms will bleed as they sink in slowly.
Brass tacks puncturing our eyes and blinding us even to the pain it causes.
Brass tacks scattered on the paths we choose,
stuck in the rubber soles of our manufactured shoes—made we know not where, by whom, or how.
Brass tacks we compare to another’s—asking them to be the same, wanting them to be the same, and then screaming insane from the pain of no gain and hating to know that they’ll never…be…the same.
Brass tacks upturned on every letter of the sleep-deprived, masochism of a graduate student’s keyboard; typing truth as they know it now, while the child in the playground by the park plays Jacks with brass tacks and twigs for arms, preparing in years to come to type truth as they know it then.
You see, brass cannot rust.
So it shines bright on the red dust floor of the thatch-roofed home burned by rebels in the war.
And it clinks in the empty purse of the woman—worn, ravaged, and ripped by the rape that called her whore.
Clinks to the sound of her cadence—sharp enough to pierce the heart and bleed it dry, withered and crisp like a dessicated fly.
Soft enough that we never hear it in the drowning of our clinking coins.
Brass tacks in the beds we’ve made, which is where we’ll be laid, and our memories will fade.
Brass tacks all along the way—real or make believe, undenied or inconcieved.
Brass tacks we can use to scratch the surface, if we choose.
May 4, 2012 § Leave a comment