Scientists say billions required to meet conservation targets

By Matt McGrath

Science reporter, BBC World Service

Ethiopian bush crow

The most threatened species tend to be relatively cheap to save because of small range sizes

Reducing the risk of extinction for threatened species and establishing protected areas for nature will cost the world over $76bn dollars annually.

Researchers say it is needed to meet globally agreed conservation targets by 2020.

The scientists say the daunting number is just a fifth of what the world spends on soft drinks annually.

And it amounts to just 1% of the value of ecosystems being lost every year, they report in the journal Science.

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Nature just doesn’t do recessions, we’re talking about the irreversible loss of unique species and millions of years of evolutionary history”

Donal McCarthyRSPB

Back in 2002, governments around the world agreed that they would achieve a significant reduction in biodiversity loss by 2010. But the deadline came and went and the rate of loss increased.

Significant cost

At a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya that year governments re-committed to a series of targets to be achieved by 2020.

But there is a marked lack of data on how much it would cost to protect species and landed areas. And some experts believe that uncertainty about financial information helps governments who are reluctant to commit to funding the targets.

Now researchers from a number of conservation organisations and universities have set out in detail the likely costs of preserving all threatened species. They’ve also worked out the cost of establishing and expanding protected areas to cover seventeen percent of land and inland water areas.

Phillippine eagle
The Philippine Eagle needs relatively large tracts of pristine forest to survive

Environmental economist Donal McCarthy from the RSPB lead the study. He told BBC News that the amounts involved are significant.

“Reducing the extinction threat for all species would cost $5bn a year, but establishing and maintaining a comprehensive global network of protected areas would cost substantially more,” said Mr McCarthy.

“It could be up to $76bn annually to meet both targets.”

The researchers used the threat to birds as a model for working out the costs of extinction to all species. They asked experts around the world to estimate the costs of conservation actions required to move them down the IUCNlist of those at greatest threat.

“A key finding of our analysis was that the most highly threatened species tend to relatively cheap to save on account of their small range sizes, such as the Razo lark, which lives on the island of Razo in the Cape Verde islands,” said Mr McCarthy.

“Experts say conserving the species would cost less than one hundred thousand a year over the next ten years.”

The costs for protecting land areas were worked out by including estimates of what would be needed to protect sites from threats including deforestation, poaching and over harvesting as well as improving existing conservation zones.

Donal McCarthy says that when compared to some global expenditures the $76bn price tag is a small price to pay.

“These are just a fraction of what we as consumers spend on soft drinks each year which is almost half a trillion dollars – the total required for species and sites is less than half of what is paid out in bonuses to bankers on Wall street’s biggest investment banks,” he explained.

Tough choices needed

Some scientists though are uncertain as to whether the world can afford such large sums in a time of economic crisis.

Prof Tim Benton from the University of Leeds says that tough choices may have to be made.

White shouldered Ibis
Cambodia’s white shouldered ibis receives just 10% of the annual investment needed to save it.

“Some species in some places are absolutely crucial to the way the ecosystem works, but that may not the case in other places.” he told BBC News.

“So rather than trying to save everything everywhere, I think we need to be more strategic, in a very money-limited world, to optimise conservation targets rather than to maximise all biodiversity everywhere.”

Dr Andy Jarvis is with the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia. He feels the targets and the finance will be hard to realise. He says that the growing global population and shifting consumption patterns are putting additional pressures on the food system, and so the pressure on land is only going to increase from that side.

“Whilst it would be fantastic if this money were to become available, and ensure that we do maintain critical ecosystem services, this is unlikely to happen,” he said.

But Donal McCarthy argues that at the very least knowing the cost of the targets that governments have agreed to will bring some realism to the discussions.

“Nature just doesn’t do recessions, we’re talking about the irreversible loss of unique species and millions of years of evolutionary history that does need to be borne in mind.”

“These total sums are essentially investments in natural capital. They are not bills.”

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Categories: Environment, News Article | Leave a comment

Sponging boomers

The economic legacy left by the baby-boomers is leading to a battle between the generations

 

ANOTHER economic mess looms on the horizon—one with a great wrinkled visage. The struggle to digest the swollen generation of ageing baby-boomers threatens to strangle economic growth. As the nature and scale of the problem become clear, a showdown between the generations may be inevitable.

After the end of the second world war births surged across the rich world. Britain, Germany and Japan all enjoyed a baby boom, although it peaked in different years. America’s was most pronounced. By 1964 individuals born after the war accounted for 41% of the total population, forming a generation large enough to exert its own political and economic gravity.

These boomers have lived a charmed life, easily topping previous generations in income earned at every age. The sheer heft of the generation created a demographic dividend: a rise in labour supply, reinforced by a surge in the number of working women. Social change favoured it too. Households became smaller, populated with more earners and fewer children. And boomers enjoyed the distinction of being among the best-educated of American generations at a time when the return on education was soaring.

Yet these gains were one-offs. Retirements will reverse the earlier labour-force surge, and younger generations cannot benefit from more women working. There is room to raise educational levels, but it is harder and less lucrative to improve the lot of disadvantaged students than to establish a university degree as the norm for good ones, as was the case after the war. In short, boomer income growth relied on a number of one-off gains.

Young workers also cannot expect decades of rising asset prices like those that enriched the boomers. Zheng Liu and Mark Spiegel, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, found in 2011 that movements in the price-earnings ratio of equities closely track changes in the ratio of middle-aged to old workers, meaning that the p/e ratio is likely to fall. Having lived through a spectacular bull market, boomers now sell off assets to finance retirement, putting pressure on equity prices and denying young workers an easy route to wealth. Boomers have weathered the economic crisis reasonably well. Thanks largely to the rapid recovery in stockmarkets, those aged between 53 and 58 saw a net decline in wealth of just 2.8% between 2006 and 2010.

More worrying is that this generation seems to be able to leverage its size into favourable policy. Governments slashed tax rates in the 1980s to revitalise lagging economies, just as boomers approached their prime earning years. The average federal tax rate for a median American household, including income and payroll taxes, dropped from more than 18% in 1981 to just over 11% in 2011. Yet sensible tax reforms left less revenue for the generous benefits boomers have continued to vote themselves, such as a prescription-drug benefit paired with inadequate premiums. Deficits exploded. Erick Eschker, an economist at Humboldt State University, reckons that each American born in 1945 can expect nearly $2.2m in lifetime net transfers from the state—more than any previous cohort.

 

 

Boomers’ sponging may well outstrip that of younger generations as well. A study by the International Monetary Fund in 2011 compared the tax bills of a cohort’s members over their lifetime with the value of the benefits that they are forecast to receive. The boomers are leaving a huge bill. Those aged 65 in 2010 may receive $333 billion more in benefits than they pay in taxes (see chart), an obligation 17 times larger than that likely to be left by those aged 25.

Sadly, arithmetic leaves but a few ways out of the mess. Faster growth would help. But the debt left by the boomers adds to the drag of slower labour-force growth. Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, two Harvard economists, estimate that public debt above 90% of GDP can reduce average growth rates by more than 1%. Meanwhile, the boomer era has seen falling levels of public investment in America. Annual spending on infrastructure as a share of GDP dropped from more than 3% in the early 1960s to roughly 1% in 2007.

Austerity is another option, but the consolidation needed would be large. The IMF estimates that fixing America’s fiscal imbalance would require a 35% cut in all transfer payments and a 35% rise in all taxes—too big a pill for a creaky political system to swallow. Fiscal imbalances rise with the share of population over 65 and with partisan gridlock, according to other research by Mr Eschker. This is troubling news for America, where the over-65 share of the voting-age population will rise from 17% now to 26% in 2030.

That leaves a third possibility: inflation. Post-war inflation helped shrink America’s debt as a share of GDP by 35 percentage points (see article). More inflation might prove salutary for other reasons as well. Mr Rogoff has suggested that a few years of 5% price rises could have helped households reduce their debts faster. Other economists, including two members of the Federal Reserve’s policymaking committee, now argue that with interest rates near zero, the Fed should tolerate a higher rate of inflation to speed up recovery.

The generational divide makes this plan a hard sell. Younger workers are typically debtors, who benefit from inflation reducing real interest rates. Older cohorts with large savings dislike it for the same reason. A recent paper by the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis suggests that as a country ages, its tolerance for inflation falls. Its authors theorise that a central bank could use inflation to achieve some generational redistribution. Yet pressure on the Fed to cease its expansionary actions has been intense, and led by a Republican Party increasingly driven by boomer preferences.

The political power of the boomers is formidable. But sooner or later, it cannot escape the maths.

Categories: Economics, News Article, Social Changes | Leave a comment

How Chavez Does Business

After almost 14 years in office, and with an impressive record of electoral victories behind him, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez now faces the most challenging campaign of his political career. Venezuela’s economy is weak, and, for the first time since 1998, Chávez, who has cancer, could suffer defeat when the country goes to the polls, on October 7.

The conventional wisdom is that Chávez’s prospects will depend, as they have in the past, on his strong support from the country’s poor. He has spent years developing social programs to dole out state funds to those in need, and the tactic has made him wildly popular. But that strategy alone might not work this time around. Chávez’s electoral fortune today depends not so much on his connections to the poor but on his approach to Venezuela’s private sector.

Chávez has long undercut private enterprise, which has resulted in a weak economy that is hurting his appeal to voters. (Click the image to the right to see how.) But he can also use economic troubles to demonize the private sector and rally ideological voters. This complicated relationship to the private sector explains why, this this time around, Chávez’s candidacy is damaged but still afloat.

PROBLEMS TO THE PEOPLE

This round of voting is especially significant, because more than at any point in recent memory, stability is an issue: the ruling party is heavily armed, and the opposition is highly charged. (Last weekend, three followers of the opposition were killed; click here to see a timeline of Chávez’s rise to power.) Neither side trusts the other, nor the rules by which the other plays. The outcome could be close — the numbers vary, but two reputable pollsters have shown the opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles Radonski, to be closing the gap — and there is a risk that neither party will recognize unfavorable results. In other words, the threat of violence is very real in a country that is the fourth most important source of oil for the United States.

At least in theory, Chávez shouldn’t be having so many problems. In Latin America, incumbents have a huge advantage because the office of the president is often the most powerful branch of government; the fact is all the more true in Caracas. More, Chávez has presided over one of the most extraordinary oil booms in history, generating nearly $1 trillion since the early 2000s. Yet the president’s political prospects look very much like his physical health: he is not quite dying, but he is not thriving either.

Chávez’s main problem is that social spending may have reached a saturation point. Since the 2010 parliamentary elections, the urban poor have largely split politically. Some poor continue to trust Chávez as their patron saint, awed by his “missions,” as his varied social assistance programs are known. His latest project — handing out some 244,000 free houses to low-income Venezuelans — has captured headlines for its imaginativeness and grandiosity.

But the other half of the urban poor seems to have had enough. These people feel besieged by the worst crime wave in the world — this year, experts expect the homicide rate to reach 70 murders per 100,000 inhabitants (in the United States, the rate is about 4 per 100,000). They are frustrated by declining real wages and scarce job prospects. They are tired of empty promises; many of the new giveaway houses, for instance, are proving to be uninhabitable. And they are frustrated by infrastructure that is collapsing around them. In the last several months alone, a bridge on a major interstate highway collapsed, and an oil refinery exploded, killing 41 people. The electricity grid is in such disrepair that Caracas now schedules daily power outages.

BUSINESS IN A VISE

Chávez’s real hope, then, is his relationship with the business class. Contrary to what conservative analysts claim, Chávez is no Bolshevik. He says that he wants to “pulverize” capitalism, but the truth is that he is not intent on obliterating the country’s private sector. He wants to keep it alive — but small, uncompetitive, and dependent on the state.

On that score, he has succeeded. Since the mid-2000s, Chávez has nationalized approximately 100 major firms and almost 900 minor ones, while expanding public-sector employment from 15 to 19 percent of the labor force. He has saddled the private sector with onerous regulations and price controls, overburdening firms with heavy costs. He deliberately overvalues the country’s currency, which discourages exports and overstimulates imports. To survive, private firms have had to become import retailers rather than local producers. Thus, imports have increased and private-sector exports have virtually collapsed, down in 2010 by 55 percent since 1998. And finally, firms can’t access dollars on their own because they are not exporting; the only way for them to get cash is to go knocking on the government’s door. But Caracas sells dollars only at very high prices and under strict controls. Businesses are forced to maintain very good connections with the state.

The result is a reduced, highly unproductive, increasingly state-dependent yet very profitable private sector. The Venezuelan stock market says it all — the bourse has skyrocketed during Chávez’s tenure, appreciating by 870 percent between 2000 and 2010, far outstripping stock markets in the more avowedly capitalist countries of Chile (275 percent), Brazil (299 percent), and Mexico (554 percent). Firms make profits by acquiring import licenses or a privileged exchange rate, or by bribing the state for contracts and exemptions to regulations. Few firms seek profits by investing in their own businesses.

The Venezuelan stock market outshines not just stock markets in other countries but, ironically for a socialist state, workers’ earnings at home. Real wages in Venezuela have collapsed by almost 40 percent since 2000 (see the interactive graphic). Elsewhere in the region, real wages have either improved or remained stable.

This odd relationship with the private sector explains both Chávez’s not-so-high electoral ceiling and his not-so-low electoral floor. Whereas in most countries governments experiment with different forms of partnerships with the private sector to advance development, in Venezuela the state tries to go it alone. Consequently, Chávez cannot tout achievements in job growth, salary growth, infrastructure improvement, expansion of the middle classes, and jumps in education seen elsewhere in emerging markets. This is a burden on his campaign.

But the underperformance of the private sector works wonders ideologically, as it allows Chávez to bluster on with his anti-capitalist rhetoric. On the campaign trail, he regularly accuses the private sector of predatory hoarding. He complains that businesses are not producing enough or creating jobs fast enough. He blames them for relying on imports and expatriating profits (and thus being in cahoots with international capitalism). His rhetoric about a faltering private sector allows the state to portray itself as the only hope for the poor. To move the masses into the ranks of the middle class, the state cannot act alone — the private sector must also generate well-paying jobs. But that is not happening in Venezuela, despite the fact that it has everywhere else in Latin America. In many ways, of course, Chávez is correct. The private sector is atrophied. What he fails to mention is the problems are government-induced.

So Chávez’s strategy has been to keep the election discussion at the ideological level, emphasizing the problems of capitalism. Since these problems are so visible in Venezuela, his ideological attack resonates. And because there has been some poverty alleviation but not enough growth of the middle class, there is still a constituency for Chávez’s self-description as the country’s greatest-ever welfare provider.

But in this campaign, Chávez is pushing new boundaries. On the stump, he has portrayed his regime as the country’s guarantor of order, and thus, the best choice for business and business-friendly voters. On several occasions this year, Chávez has actually said that to vote for him is to vote for stability and, in turn, more profits. In Latin America, the argument that the state exists to protect the country, and especially businesses, from political unrest dates back to the military juntas of the 1970s. It is the essence of reactionary ideology.

Chávez is campaigning not just on ideological grounds but also, schizophrenically, on both extremes of the ideological spectrum: he is portraying himself as Venezuela’s savior from capitalism and as Venezuela’s savior of capitalism.

ARMED WITH A SECOND-BEST ARGUMENT

This puts the opposition in a corner. The 40-year-old center-left Capriles Radonski, known as el Flaco (the Skinny One), has run a successful campaign. He has united a fragmented opposition, avoiding getting personal when responding to the government’s ad hominem attacks. (When Chávez accused him of being a Nazi sympathizer and thus betraying his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, Capriles Radonski simply responded, in so many words, I’ve never messed with your family; don’t mess with mine. Last Sunday, he led one of the largest marches ever to take place in Caracas. Capriles Radonski has widened the appeal of the opposition with a conciliatory, rather than vengeful, discourse. He has forced the government to recognize some of its own failings, including an admission by Chávez in June that crime is a “serious problem” that social spending alone cannot cure — an admission that not long ago would have been unimaginable.

But when it comes to the business class, Capriles Radonski is stuck. He understands that the foremost curse on Venezuela today is not so much the tyranny of oil but the noncompetitiveness of the private sector. To say as much openly, however, would only play into Chávez’s accusation that this newcomer is out to serve the elites.

So Capriles Radonski has focused on the next best tactic. Rather than promising better management of the business sector, he is promising better management of the state’s businesses: improving garbage collection, ending power outages, easing traffic jams, ensuring water provision, making social spending more transparent, and, of course, fighting crime. Anyone who has visited Venezuela recently knows the dismal state of its public services, and a campaign built around making things better resonates widely.

The election will come down to a showdown between a relentlessly ideological incumbent and a man running as the handyman-in-chief. Chávez wants to be all things ideological while his adversary wants to be all things competent. Chávez’s strategy is risky and desperate, and it will not win over the millions of Venezuelans who long for a better-functioning state. Such voters might go with Capriles Radonski. But he faces his own risks — of overstating his powers as a repairman and of disappointing those who want to know which tasks he’ll address first, and how. Thus, Chávez’s ideological approach won’t convince everyone, but he could end up convincing at least half of Venezuelan voters. And that’s all he needs to eke out one more victory.

Categories: Economics, News Article, Politics, Social Changes | 1 Comment

Summer ice in the Arctic Ocean is vanishing rapidly

 

IN 2007 climate scientists were shocked when the regular summer retreat of the Arctic’s sea ice went far farther than they had ever seen before. In the spring of that year ice covered just under 15m km2 (5.8m square miles) of ocean—an area 90% as big as Russia. By mid-September, when it reached its minimum, there were just 4.17m km2 left. That is about the area of the European Union minus Greece. Since 1979, when satellites made such measurements possible, there had been no melt like it.

Until now. Though the extent of the September sea ice did bounce back a little from 2007’s nadir, in every year since then the minimum has been lower than it was in every year before 2007. And this year 2007’s record has not been merely broken, it has been smashed. Coverage fell below 4.17m km2 as early as August 26th. By September 16th, which America’s National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) thinks marked the low point, it was down to 3.41m km2 (see map). That is the European Union minus Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Britain and Germany.

This is all the more surprising because 2012 has in other ways been a pretty ordinary year in the Arctic. In 2007 the summer weather was particularly inimical to the persistence of ice, with lots of warm southerly winds and clear skies that allowed the sunshine to do its worst. This year has seen far less in the way of special circumstances. It is true that a powerful cyclone chewed up a lot of ice in the East Siberian and Chukchi seas in early August—but the rate of ice loss outstripped that seen in 2007 both before the storm and after it.

The summer sea ice is shrinking so much mostly because greenhouse warming is raising Arctic temperatures. This has direct effects: when the air is warmer, more ice melts. It also has indirect effects. Warm, salty water from the North Atlantic sliding below the cold, fresh upper layers of the Barents Sea may be one of them. Another could be that warmer air is often moister. Moist air traps more heat in summer. In winter it tends to create more clouds, which keeps the surface below warm.

Disappearing trick

In theory, climate models should help tease out which of these indirect effects is playing the biggest role, and also say how much of the decline in ice cover can be assigned to natural variability and how much to feedback loops in which a little warming leads to a lot more. The most famous of these feedbacks is the ice-albedo effect: the darker (“lower-albedo”) surfaces revealed when bright, reflective ice melts go on to absorb more sun than the ice did, accelerating the process that originally provoked the melting.

Unfortunately, climate models do not seem to be good at coping with the Arctic. The melt is happening much faster in reality than it does in computer programs. It seems these are not capturing the subtleties of the ways in which more heat is getting to the far north, and that these subtleties matter.

This makes it hard to say how fast the summer ice cover will continue to shrink. But the betting has to be that it will indeed continue to do so. The warming trend means that, every year, there is less old ice and more new ice that has formed in the winter just past. That new ice will often be fragile and thin, easily disrupted by summer weather. And in a warmer world the sort of cold conditions that used to allow the ice to thicken and reinforce itself are that bit less common, so opportunities to reverse the trend are rare.

It is still possible that changes in wind patterns and longer-term natural climate shifts may slow the currently tumultuous process of decline. But according to Mark Serreze of NSIDC the system has entered a “new regime” in which, eventually, most of the ice will come and go every year, with little lasting the whole summer. September ice cover of less than 1m km2 could be normal within decades. That’s just France and Germany.

Our animation of previous September sea-ice extents reveals the shipping routes that could be unlocked

A world in which sunshine and ocean currents push a lot more energy into the Arctic in the summer will be one where much of that energy comes back out in the winter, as the surface waters cool and the ice freezes back. This release of heat will probably change the atmosphere’s circulation patterns, perhaps through the jet stream, a wind which circles the world in the lower stratosphere, perhaps through other means. Such changes will, in turn, affect the weather at lower latitudes.

Various groups of researchers have sought to link the expanses of open water north of Siberia in years with strong summer melting to cold subsequent winters in western Europe. More generally it has been suggested that the effect on the jet stream might increase the frequency of “blocking” patterns, in which weather conditions that would normally be expected to stay over a given region for only a few days get stuck for weeks or months, provoking droughts and heatwaves.

Over and out?

As yet none of these ideas has been confirmed, and for now there is no definitely discernible pattern in terms of severe weather. James Overland of America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who works on the matter, points out that normally temperate places saw unusually cold winters in 2009-10 and 2010-11, which some people have linked to strong previous melting; but after similar melting the winters of 2011-12 and 2008-09 turned out quite differently.

The effects in the Arctic, on fisheries and trade, may be easier to measure. But low levels of ice do not mean open water everywhere. Shell’s attempts to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea this August were forestalled by ice floes which, though small by the scale of continents, were pretty large by the standards of human engineering. On the other side of the ocean the Parry Channel, a part of the Northwest Passage which has been ice-free in previous years, this year stayed resolutely impassable.

Such quirks will make the Arctic an unpredictable place to work. But if the details are tricky, the big picture is clear. Clear as an open ocean.

Categories: Environment, News Article | Leave a comment

Columnist’s Opinion on US Presidential Election: Poverty is this election’s invisible issue

President Obama and Mitt Romney ignore the problem. For the sake of the poor, and the country, they need to take action.

4:59PM EST October 7. 2012 – Last week’s first presidential debate was largely about the economy, but I didn’t hear either President Obama or Mitt Romney say how they would help the poor.

Until recently, in fact, the poor have barely been an afterthought during this presidential campaign. A study released this month by Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting found that news coverage of poverty from January through June comprised no more than 3% of election stories compared with the 18% that reported on the “debt” or “deficit.”

Then former governor Mitt Romney dragged the poor into the campaign with his inaccurate, sweeping indictment of the 47% of Americans who don’t pay federal income tax. (He admitted Thursday he was wrong.) But even that gaffe hasn’t prompted him or Obama to engage in a more substantive debate about poverty. We’ve heard precious little about how either candidate would help the 15% of Americans living below the poverty line. The latest Census figures show that 17 states saw an increase in poverty rates from 2010 to 2011.

Romney may assume that focusing on the poor will not win him votes. But a Pew Research Center poll this year showed that 57% of lower-income Republican voters say the government does not do enough for the poor.

Obama cannot take low-income voters for granted, either. They might not show up at the polls for him as they did in 2008. The poor, like many in the middle class, are hurting, and many blame the president for not doing more to address poverty, pump up the economy and create more jobs.

Many people hurting

“We knew that the old permanent poor were catching hell, but it was the new middle class that hit us hard,” said Princeton professor Cornel West when I interviewed him and PBS talk show host Tavis Smiley during their “Poverty Tour 2.0” in September. “(We’ve seen) folks who had been making $150,000 a year and (were now) living in their cars.”

The progressive think tank Center for American Progress found that from 2001 to 2007, profits and productivity went up but poverty increased. During the past three years, the poverty rate hasn’t improved and middle-class income has declined.

“Poverty is threatening our democracy, our very way of life,” Smiley said. “This is an American catastrophe.”

The conservative Heritage Foundation doesn’t think so. It published research this summer that suggested the federal definition of being poor should be changed. The study questioned whether families have a place to live, aren’t hungry and enjoy various amenities — refrigerators, microwaves, televisions, air conditioning — are actually impoverished.

But amenities, which can be gifts, second-hand purchases or rented, don’t reflect financial stability or a safe environment. As for hunger, it can be quelled by inexpensive, unhealthy foods. And merely having a place to call home doesn’t mean the living conditions are healthy or safe.

Income equality Instead of poverty, Obama and Romney have dueled over the tax rates of the wealthy and middle class — as they did Wednesday night — often packaged as a debate about income inequality. Obama has called it “the defining issue of our time.” Though it certainly matters to the middle class, and arguably is integral to the nation’s overall economic health, it hardly seems “defining” when one in seven Americans are suffering at or below the poverty level. Romney dismissed the income inequality debate as more of the “politics of envy,” a canard that ignores the huge income disparities and stark distinctions in the financial realities of those he cavalierly calls the makers and takers.

Both campaigns need to pledge to move beyond political rhetoric and help the poor through government programs and by fostering entrepreneurship through microloans, training and partnerships with businesses, churches and non-profits.

What troubles me is if Romney is elected president because he has said that he isn’t “concerned about the very poor.” And if Obama wins, the former community organizer for the needy has said the middle class is priority No. 1. What we need in these tough economic times is leadership for all the people.

So who will speak for the poor?

Categories: News Article, Politics, Social Changes | 1 Comment

Interesting read on how teachers can embrace social media in education

A Teacher’s Guide To Social Media [INFOGRAPHIC]

By Shea Bennett on July 27, 2012 3:45 PM

Did you know that two thirds of education faculties have used some form of social media during a class? YouTube leads the way, ahead of Facebook and LinkedIn, with Twitter getting a surprisingly low amount of attention.

Overall, some 90 percent of educators have used social media in the classroom or for their professional careers, and it’s not just the young and trendy teachers, either – faculty that have been teaching for 20 years are just as aware of social media as other educators.

This infographic from Online Colleges presents a teacher’s guide to social media, which includes some tips on using the major social platforms in the classroom, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.

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How Classrooms Can Excel Using the Latest Technology and Social Media

Adapted from: http://www.socialnomics.net/2012/09/30/how-classrooms-can-excel-using-the-latest-technology-and-social-media/

Living in a city where there is a sea of college students, I see more technological gadgets on these young students than sometimes even on adults. They havedigital classroom iPads in the classroom to take notes on, read their books on, and more. However it’s not just technology that’s advancing in the classroom it’s also the acceptance and usage of social media. There are many colleges that demonstrate adaptation and skill in using social successfully to teach students. So what are the benefits of using new technology and social media? Here are three reasons why your classroom should consider the same…

1. Use the technology and Networks They Already Use and Know

Students are already posting on Facebook, reading blogs on Tumblr, tweeting their favorite things on Twitter, and pinning what they love on Pinterest. They know how to use the sites well, and they use it often. Make part of the class participation online participation. It helps those who are creative but perhaps shy in class. For example homework can include keeping a Tumblr blog about a topic which students can comment on and share ideas on. Or if it’s a photography class, how about utilizing Instagram or again Tumblr to host that content. Tip: find the networks that work best for your lesson content (and students).

2. Integrate With Lesson Plans and Learnings

The infographic demonstrates that professors and teachers are already adapting, andeven shows the networks where they can utilize to make their efforts more fruitful with their students. It’s not just about using Facebook and Twitter, but realizing that you can create a wiki for the class and online discussion, and/or pin daily findings on a Pinterest board. There are numerous ways to take advantage, it’s about creating the lesson plan that works for you and your students creativity and desire to engage with the content in places they love interacting. Some students may be hesitant to use their own profiles that already exist – so perhaps create new ones just for class or a location where they can all contribute.

3. Continue and Extend the Conversation Past the Classroom

It is a great opportunity to extend conversation past the classroom. Take the offline, online. For example creating a hashtag for the classroom to corral conversation and extend a topic that was discussed in class, after class has ended. It keeps the students thinking, searching, reading, and interacting with the content.

Last Tip: Remember to  keep content and tools fresh. As we all are well aware, tools and social networks, and apps change, update, and pop up daily. It is tough to keep up but we have to. Perhaps utilize students who work for the school to keep up on the research regarding what’s the latest to help keep lesson plans fresh.

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There is far too much money in sport. What do you think and why?

Adapted from: http://gpessays.com/sports/there-is-far-too-much-money-in-sport-what-do-you-think-and-why

Spectator sports were once defined by the close-knit nature of teams, the tenacity of the competition and the exhilaration of the victory, and the essence of fair play—playing for the sake of playing, not winning. In the 21st century, however, the spectator sport sector has become one of the largest grossing businesses in the world, with almost every large firm, regardless of industry, involves in matters ranging from the ownership of sports teams or even entire leagues to the sponsorship of competitions. Sports has become a field where money can buy talent and where winning is everything because winning generates still more money. IT is tragic that the essence of team sport has been distorted by the buying and selling of athletes and that a modern-day sports team is nothing but a group of money-hungry individuals who have little in common except the compulsion to win—for more prize money.

The definition of competitive sports has been distorted by the injection of money into the system. Earlier, prize winnings were measly sums of money that barely supported players and were more a side benefit to the general satisfaction of being a sports person. Jesse Owens, the legendary American sprinter, ran barefoot at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany and despite winning an unprecedented number of gold medals maintained a down-to-earth lifestyle and personality that enhanced people’s respect for him. In stark contrast, athletes today, such as English footballer David Beckham, receive outrageous amount of money for doing little more than looking good on the filed. Endorsement contracts, club paycheck and benefits all add up to give them a yearly income that often exceeds $1000 million. Beckhman’s recently-singed contract with an obscure MLS (America) team called LA Galaxy netted him a paycheck of $50 million—from the club alone. These financial incentives often spoil players so much that their hunger to play well and win a good win, dies out. It has in Beckham’s case.

Modern-day sport is filled with such over-hyped yet mediocre sportsperson who have little motivation to do what they are paid for—play well. And understandably so. It is hardly a surprise that they can’t perform consider they are more celebrities and socialites than athletes and spend more time at parties than breaking a sweat on the field. In fact, they aren’t average human beings any more. Their apotheosis, however, is largely due to their wealth and their name, not their play.

Another adverse impact of the amount of money floating around in the sports world is that talent is given little more than monetary value. The genius of sportsperson is undermined; they are tagged merely as “worth $xx million” rather than a fabulous striker or a goalkeeper with golden hands. Half a century ago, legendary Brazilian footballer Pele, exploded onto the global football scene with outstanding performance in the 1958 and 1962 FIFA World Cups. Back then, his name carried an aura of virtuosity; nobody speculated on how much he was worth and nobody sought to buy him up before someone else could. Now, if a similarly talented young footballer emerges in Africa, European club football bigwigs snatch him up for a measly sum, train him and ‘enhance his monetary value’ before selling him to earn some cash. For example, the English football club Arsenal ‘bought’ French teenager Nikolas Anelka for a little over $500,000 (a massive sum a quarter century ago; now it is pocket money) and ‘sold’ him to Real Madrid after a couple of years fro over $25 million.

The branding of players, the ‘buying and selling’ players, and the poaching of talent are just a few of the terrible ramifications of the commercialisation of sports. But they are terrible indeed. The buying and selling of today’s most celebrated sportspersons and of the raw talent of children in developing countries is akin to the buying and selling of slaves. And in a world that claims to be free.

Team spirit is another thing that has been devoured by the hunger for money. Sportspersons today are little more than mercenaries: they play for the team that offers them the highest pay. This motive is in vivid contrast to only 25 years ago, when there was nothing odd about a player spending his entire career with one team, playing devotedly regardless of salary. Half a century ago, football clubs grew talented players from their teens and formed a formidable unit of dedicated players who shared a common thought: make our team the best. Today, many football clubs, like Manchester City, which don’t even bother with a local youth football system because their oil-merchant owner is ready to fork over any sum of money to assemble the best players form all over the world. Today’s club teams may seem daunting, but they aren’t essentially teams because they have no real team spirit; they are a rabble of individuals with egos as inflated as their bank balances. The selflessness of playing for a team, the brotherhood of team members, the common exhilaration that engulfed the entire team whenever any one player saw success—that is all gone. What is left is greed for money, selfish play to attract clubs who may pay more, and all-round snobbishness and arrogance. Is that what teens imagine when they dream of playing top-level football? Surely not!

The hauteur aside, the money in sports has also directly caused many political and legal scandals. This is simply because avarice for more prize money overwhelms owners more than it does players. The Indian Premier League, the pretentiously self-proclaimed ‘top cricket league in the world’ faced a major scandal earlier this year when one of he core administrators, Shashi Tharoor, was exposed as having been directly involved in determining the winners of matches. There are many similar such examples of public disgraces, the latest being two Pakistani cricketers who confessed to accepting bribes from bookies to bowl no-balls. A couple of years ago, Juventus, one of Italy’s top football clubs and the league winner, ignominiously made headlines for having bribed numerous referees over the course of the season. The club was demoted as punishment, but Italina football is still tainted with the vestiges of this despicable disease: many clubs are owned, directly or indirectly by the notorious mafia, who have no scruples about greasing a few palms to win.

The unprecedented rise in betting is yet another indicator that money has degraded the quality of sports. What was limited to putting a few bucks on the Sunday races at the Derby has now insinuated its way into almost every major sporting event in the worlds. The amounts at stake—thousands, even tens and hundreds of thousands—cause some crooked bookies to unfairly influence the outcome of games. Such corrupt practice is a worrying trend indeed.

All in all, it is obvious that there is far too much money in sport. Players have become rich, unmotivated snobs; clubs have become business franchises in talent purchase and sale; leagues have become international trade enterprises. Something needs to be done to curb the influence of money in sport because if things continue as they are, sport will well and truly lose its meaning. True fans and sportsperson will turn away in disgusts from capitalist enterprises that call themselves sports clubs and some of humanity’s prize qualities—team work, determination and selflessness—will be lost, maybe forever.

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Essay Questions 12

1. What are the factors responsible for increasing economic globalization? Discuss the consequences of such a trend.

2. “The United Nations has proven itself incapable of solving both regional and global problems and should be dismantled.” Do you agree?

3. What changes, if any, would you like to see in the people of your country?

4. Describe and justify your philosophy of life.

5. How should the spread of AIDS be combated?

6. Do you agree that nuclear power is the only practical solution to the world’s energy problems?

7. “The modern woman has paid too high a price for equality.” Do you agree?

8. “The greatest danger of science is that it is seen by modern man as the answer to everything.” Discuss.

9. “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” Do you agree?

10. Is it true that the promotion of the Arts is a luxury which only rich, developed nations can afford?

11. “Nearly all non-conformists are merely attention seekers.” Do you agree?

12. Discuss the purpose, value and effectiveness of any two recent government campaigns in your country.

13. “Some people need advice; most need orders.” How far do you agree with this view?

14. What do you understand by the concept of a mature person?

15. “All history is biased.” How far do you agree with this view?

16. “Let him who desires peace prepare for war.” Is this a sound advice?

17. Do you agree that Western society has gone too far in its questioning of all forms of authority?

18. Is Science necessarily the key to the advancement of Mankind?

19. In what ways is statistical literacy important?

20. What do you consider are the advantages and disadvantages of having an armed police force?

21. Which three technological developments do you feel will have the greatest impact on mankind in the next decade? How and why will they change our lives?

22. “Censorship is always self-defeating and therefore futile.” How far do you agree?

23. “Economics is not a science but merely a form of modern witchcraft.” Discuss.

24. “American culture is having a pervasive and polluting influence on the rest of the world.” How far do you agree?

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List of good habits that you should practise every day…

Adapted from: ‘GP Power’ by Robert Wilks

1. Listen to the BBC World Service news on the radio every morning

2. Watch the news in English on television

3. Subscribe to English newspapers (e.g. The Straits Times) and current affairs magazines (e.g. TIME, Newsweek, The Economist)

4. Take an active interest in world events and topical issues

5. Speak English whenever and wherever it is appropriate

6. Buy and use a good dictionary (e.g. Collins, Oxford)

7. Compile a vocabulary list of new and useful words

8. Keep a scrapbook of newspaper and magazine articles relevant to G.P. and sort them accordingly (based on topics)

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