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By Anna

When humanity’s relationship with the environment is compared to Bernie Madoff and his clients’ relationship, the argument of human superiority doesn’t work anymore.

In the Jan/Feb issue of The Utne Reader David P. Barash said we are all Bernie Madoff’s when it comes to the environment because our economies make us so. The article was originally published in The Chronicle of Higher Education and compares Madoff’s Ponzi scheme to “modern civilization’s exploitation of the environment.”

Ponzi Scheme a.k.a. Pyramid Scheme:

Barash’s environment Ponzi Scheme:

“Nearly all economic models of ‘development’ rely upon an unsustainable assumption: that the discovery of new resources … will always come to our rescue, enabling us to postpone, indefinitely, any final audit … Under capitalism, it has been said, man exploits man, whereas under communism, it’s the reverse. Either way, the environment is the loser.”
He attacks Capitalism and Communism, but shies away from attacking socialism. Though we will never convince our parents of the need for a socialist economy, the independent experts agree it would help the situation we find ourselves in, that of recession and joblessness and environmental damage. As Barash said, “A strong economy is possible when the environment on which it depends is healthy and strong.”

No longer can we excuse our Ponzi Scheme with the environment because, like Madoff, there are bigger forces that will imprison us eventually.

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By Anna

Haiti has long been called “The Republic of NGOs” because more than 3,000 Non-Governmental Organizations operate in Haiti, according to the United States Institute of Peace.

Before (and after) the January earthquake, people criticized the number of NGOs and UN workers involved in Haiti’s well being. One blogger called them the “Neo-imperialists,” and another “invaders.” Three thousand organizations in one country is a lot too, but my critique is not in the number it’s in the activity of the number.

How many of these NGOs are infusing local growth and stability and how many are going so far as to capitalize on Haiti’s poverty? If NGOs are not involved in training local leaders, to provide jobs and economic growth they should rethink their mission.

A friend of mine this week asked me if I thought all these NGOs were exploiting Haitians because of all the excessive advertising for donating to Haiti now. I think it is a possibility, which is why it’s important to know an organization well before donating. Yes, Haiti needs our help and if an NGO has long been established in Haiti (which 3,000 have) they probably do need money right now. But texting 90999 to The Red Cross isn’t making much of a dent in Haiti’s recovery.

The solution for Haiti isn’t more money and more NGOs, the solution should be within Haiti. The United States Government and its NGOs haven’t found a solution for poverty here, so how will they manage to solve Haiti’s problems?

Reporter Marcela Valente said a solution could be found in mutual cooperation between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. If the United States urged more government solutions in Haiti, their long-term future could be more stable, but resources are limited on the island and water is now their greatest need.

The point is Haiti has always needed economic help and photos of post-earthquake kids and bodies is meant to make people aware of the situation they are now in, not to make anyone feel guilty for not texting or not going down to move concrete. So be wary of the point of NGO photos and calls for donations.

By Anna

jordan_river_mapThe only wars over a water source I knew about growing up was who got to use the hose in a water fight in the front yard. Water was fun when we were young. My sister and brother and I used to build dams on the street when my dad would wash down the driveway. The water would run through the cracks and collect on the side of the street where there was no sidewalk. Then the water would run down the street from our house and we’d do our best to stop it.

Water for kids in Jordan is a little different. Their local swimming hole, the Jordan River, also happens to be shared by Israel, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon. Ok, so they probably don’t swim in the Jordan River, but Syria’s built dams and Israel has aquifers that divert the water for use in homes, according to Good.

We take our water for granted like we take our country for granted. We assume it will always be because it always has been, but everything has an end. My parents moved and I grew up. We don’t build dams at the end of the driveway anymore, but we could influence real dams being built and help Jordanians, Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians or Lebanese keep peaceful sanctions on their river so that kids might have a place to go or at least water to drink.

Iraq, Turkey and Syria also share rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. With fertility comes violence in the Crescent and the fight for water gives these conflict ridden countries another chance for peace.

Water purification isn’t the only worry, but water rights embitter countries. Turkey plans to build 22 dams on the upper Tigris, but with a little dam comes a lot of flood. Unleashing water on its southern neighbor at any given opportunity gives Turkey the upper hand.

So what are the implications for us, America? Or just for you?

By Anna

Last week I ended the discussion on a question: And what is it about humanity that requires us to be saved, but only through death?2HP 7

Theologians, Biblical Scholars and Mythologists have asked this question for years. Alex left a comment last weekposing the idea that Christian scholars believe death is the ultimate victory over evil. Evil does after all take death as its ultimate win, but literature, poetry, mythology and film suggest that sacrificing oneself for another through death defeats evil. A very simple example is Harry Potter. His mother died in order that he might live and this sacrifice is the needed difference between Harry and Voldemort, which allows Harry to defeat his nemesis.

Alex posed this primary solution with a resolution of inadequacy. He left the following example as a better, more intellectual understanding of sacrificial death:

According to the laws in the Old Testament, a man who is indebted to another is essentially a slave if he cannot pay the debt but he can be redeemed from his debt if a relative can pay it for him. Now since we are all indebted to God because of our imperfections (it is impossible for us to be acceptable to him and we essentially deserve to die) we need a redeemer to pay our debts. Christ owed nothing because he was perfect, but he paid for our debts, therefore redeeming all of us. This is why we can only be saved through death.

Though we may better understand sacrificial death through this explication, it is still beyond our understanding as to why God required his son to die and why anyone should die without the full knowledge of how/where life is after death. As a pacifist sacrificial death seems best if death is suited to us all.

By Anna

The Kachin tribes of Myanmar live in the hills bordering China. They have called for peace with Myanmar’s government, yet their army is strong enough to defeat the Myanmar government.

When did peace and military strength become one? The dualism between what we think we need and what we actually need is startling. Myanmar has eight armed ethnic groups. Though the militant government antagonizes these groups, there are no ethnic groups without their own military power (as each ethnic group falls into one of the eight). These ethnic groups, ironically, are trying to gain influence by the very means their enemy gains influence.

Our role in this ethnic war in Myanmar, is at least to recognize Western cultures’ influence that has made Myanmar the mess it is today. These ethnic groups have ravaged for civil war since 1948, the year Myanmar was “free” from British rule. Britain steps aside and many worlds fall apart. That’s not to say in hindsight that Britain should have stayed, but rather that it never should have entered, spreading its empirical wings of desire across cultures it did not understand or care to.

Thomas Fuller, writer for The New York Times, reported: “During the Cold War, China, Thailand and the United States supplied arms and other assistance to some borderland (ethnic) groups. Now commercial interests, including many shady businesses, have replaced ideological ones.”

How arrogant (and hilarious) of Fuller to even suggest in his article that we, the United States, ever even had ideological interests in the ethnic groups of Myanmar. Our ideology lies in money and maintaining power by whatever means we can, even if that means selling arms to ethnic groups calling for peace. Perhaps we sold them arms to ease our own conscience, after all, weren’t we building up nuclear warheads for peace too?