TUNISIANS IN CHARGE—Democratic nations ought to commend Tunisians for holding free and fair elections—just 9 months after street demonstrations ushered in a contagious revolution and the ousting of the authoritarian and corrupt regime of Ben Ali.

The reverberations of Tunisia’s civil resistance continue to be felt across the Middle East. For a visual sense of events set in motion in Tunisia in December of 2010, play with this interactive timeline of the events of the Arab Spring kept by The Guardian (last updated on October 20).

While foreign affairs’ experts analyze and debate the meaning of Tunisia’s election results, we can draw reassurance and inspiration from this video depicting Tunisians’ reactions to a tricky voter-mobilization initiative. Watch the changes in the reactions of unsuspected citizens to the hanging of a giant portrait of their former dictator on the side of a building, before and after they realize that it’s meant as an important reminder.

Congratulations, Tunisians!

A recent 11-minute documentary produced for “Need to Know"—PBS TV and web news magazine—discusses the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements in the context of America’s history of individualism and resentment of big institutions—from government, to businesses, to any powerful groups that come to be perceived as threatening to our national interest.

Titled “The politics of resentment, from the tea party to Occupy Wall Street" the short film includes interviews with thinkers and media voices on either side of the political spectrum and offers important insight into Americans’ state of discontent.

[Amador Square at WordPress]

Tracing the networked “global public sphere” exemplified in Occupy-Wall-Street to the Greek agora—where male citizens gathered to debate ideas— Faizullah Jan, American University doctoral student, looks at the evolution of public opinion expression and the interaction between state and society.

"Without a functioning public sphere the state’s interaction with the public is reduced to the relatively brief periods surrounding elections.  Though election participation is a a hallmark of representative democracy, without a functioning public sphere, the government, corporations, and interest groups remain unaccountable to the people.”

Full article: “Understanding Public Sphere in a Networked Society,” guest post on Matthew Nisbet’s “Age of Engagement” at Big Think

Picture the planetary impact of feeding the world’s population today—with roughly one billion going hungry—and in 40 years from now:

Can we feed the world without destroying the planet?

Yes, researchers say, if we manage to…

  • curb expansion of farmland in the tropics;
  • raise yields in under-performing lands by 60%;
  • reallocate water, nutrients and agricultural chemicals;
  • change dietary habits;
  • reducing food waste.

Related reading, audio and video:

A Path Toward Sustaining a ‘Cultivated Planet’

Facing Planetary Enemy No.1: Agriculture

Eat less meat to help double world’s food supply: study

Population Growth Explained with Ikea Boxes

Last week was filled with news and debate (NYT) around Alabama’s new immigration law requiring schools to check the immigration status of students. The result of getting at the parents through their children: unauthorized-immigrant parents keeping children home and asking friends to care for their children (AP) in the event of deportation.

What’s the worst-case scenario behind Alabama’s strict immigration law? A Hispanic population majority? What happens to a small American town when Latinos become the majority and own half of the town’s businesses?

West Liberty, is now a mostly Hispanic town in the overwhelmingly white state of Iowa (NPR). What does West Liberty’s Mayor Chad Thomas have to say about that?

“[…] unlike a lot of other small Midwestern towns that are dying, West Liberty is alive […] growing and thriving […] If you didn’t have the Hispanic population here in town, yeah, we would be much more like a lot of smaller towns, and there would be a lot more storefronts that are empty,” Thomas said to NPR.


What happens when schools offer a voluntary dual-language program? 

“[…] in the end, all the students then become bilingual, biliterate and bicultural,” West Liberty Elementary School principal Nancy Gardner said to NPR.

How do people feel about that?

  • Anglo families have moved to West Liberty from nearby towns;
  • The program has a waiting list;
  • Other Iowa school districts with growing Hispanic populations are duplicating the program.

Bicultural utopia? Not yet. According to Mexican-born Jose Zacarias—a resident since 1984 recently sworn US Citizen—business and school integration is yet to produce community integration. But Zacarias has a plan. The only Hispanic present at a recent school board meeting, he is considering running for a seat in West Liberty’s City Council. 

"We need to get together with the Hispanics and say, we are no longer a minority, we have some responsibilities, and we need to get organized," he says. "We’ve run out of excuses. It’s time to do some work," Zacarias said to NPR.


JOSE ZACARIAS FOR CITY COUNCIL!

For more on the Latino experience in the US, check out the NPR series
Two Languages, Many Voices: Latinos in the US
Play with the interactive map: A Decade of Hispanic Population Growth

And consider a less-known aspect of Alabama’s immigration law, as depicted in this photo published in The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/07/alabama-immigration-law-water-threat?INTCMP=SRCH#zoomed-picture

#paceblog—US politicians can’t agree on the science of climate change, let alone how to respond to it. But a task force of scientists, former government officials and national security experts gathered by the Bipartisan Policy Center debated the issue and submitted their recommendation to the Federal Government: large-scale research on geoengineering.

The law of unintended consequences rushes to mind, and so do the questions: whose planet is it and whose decision to make whether we are to risk meddling with the complexities of our planet and universe? Whose technology will benefit or harm one country or world region in detriment of another? What new international conflicts can we expect? 

We have replaced “global warming” with “climate change”—doesn’t geo-engineering sound like a paradox to anyone?  

The concept is not new—certainly not to scientists—and experimentation has long been underway. A matter of time?

More articles about the BPC report:

New York Times: “Group Urges Research Into Aggressive Efforts to Fight Climate Change

Washington Post: “So you want to manipulate the Earth’s Climate…

212 Amazonian activists murdered since 1996

 Hundreds more living under the threat of assassination

 More than 20% of the Amazon Rainforest has already disappeared

 If deforestation continues at its current rate, loss of habitat could endanger more than 100 native species

 Amazon Rainforest:—five-and-a-half million square kilometres / 1.4 billion acres—60% contained in Brazil, home to 1/3 of world’s rainforests.
At Odds: —preservation versus obliteration;—long-term sustainability versus short-term profitability
Brazil’s Economy: —1988-1991: decreased deforestation—economic slowdown—1993-1998: increased deforestation—rapid economic growth—World’s second-largest producer of beef and top exporter  
The Deforestation Process:—Loggers come and leave with the most valuable trees; —Cattle ranchers move in and replace forest with pasture;
The Land:—Amazon residents, pressed by economic hardships and no government support sell land to ranchers or allow the loggers to move in;—‘grileiros’: land-grabbers who take illegal possession through forged documents or by force and intimidation;—Vastness of Amazon: difficult-to-impossible to enforce regulations or police illegal activity, including gun violence;
Other Crimes:—Inhumane working and living conditions for loggers as well;
—Modern Slavery: impoverished migrant workers forced to clear therainforest in order to pay off debts to their employers;—18,000 modern-day slaves freed by Brazil’s government between 2005-2010;—Loggers moving deeper into the forest where defenders have been obliterated and new ones fear to venture.
 _____________________________________________
Complied from “In Pictures: Pitting Preservation Against Destruction”, AljezeeraWATCH THE SLIDESHOW AT ALJEZEERA
For more information or to get involved, visit RAN Rainforest Action Network
#paceblog

212 Amazonian activists murdered since 1996

 Hundreds more living under the threat of assassination

 More than 20% of the Amazon Rainforest has already disappeared

 If deforestation continues at its current rate, loss of habitat could endanger more than 100 native species

 Amazon Rainforest:
—five-and-a-half million square kilometres / 1.4 billion acres
—60% contained in Brazil, home to 1/3 of world’s rainforests.

At Odds:
—preservation versus obliteration;
—long-term sustainability versus short-term profitability

Brazil’s Economy:
—1988-1991: decreased deforestation—economic slowdown
—1993-1998: increased deforestation—rapid economic growth
—World’s second-largest producer of beef and top exporter  

The Deforestation Process:
—Loggers come and leave with the most valuable trees;
—Cattle ranchers move in and replace forest with pasture;

The Land:
—Amazon residents, pressed by economic hardships and no government support sell land to ranchers or allow the loggers to move in;—‘grileiros’: land-grabbers who take illegal possession through forged documents or by force and intimidation;
—Vastness of Amazon: difficult-to-impossible to enforce regulations or police illegal activity, including gun violence;

Other Crimes:
—Inhumane working and living conditions for loggers as well;

—Modern Slavery: impoverished migrant workers forced to clear therainforest in order to pay off debts to their employers;
—18,000 modern-day slaves freed by Brazil’s government between 2005-2010;
—Loggers moving deeper into the forest where defenders have been obliterated and new ones fear to venture.

 _____________________________________________

Complied from “In Pictures: Pitting Preservation Against Destruction”, Aljezeera
WATCH THE SLIDESHOW AT ALJEZEERA

For more information or to get involved, visit RAN Rainforest Action Network

#paceblog