Small World

Florida State University Powers of Ten.

“View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.”

Fascinating!

I know where you live…

Jim Moore posts an interesting note he received about localising blogs by including geographical information in the header of your pages. I can see how this would be beneficial in some ways, and I find the whole concept interesting. GeoURL.org provides pointers to some tools that help you on your way.

One such resource is Multimap.com, which can map many countries down to the street level. Here’s the map of my suburb.

Although it might be interesting to know the locations of blogs, two issues come up for me. The first is that the location information is only relevant to where you are currently living, which means old posts on your blog (which for me go back a while) do not represent the context in which they were written. Minor issue really, but can put a kink in the benefit of “locating’ a blog.

Secondly is a question of security – if I wanted to (or didn’t know any better), I could include the geographical information of where I live to within 100 metres of my house. What if I say something that pisses someone off and they decide they want to pay me a visit – they could narrow down to my street, and then the could check out my photo, and I could have an unwelcome stranger on my doorstep.

But take this a step further – who needs to supoena my personal details from my ISP when you can work out my street from my blog? Sure, those details could be dug up from any number of sources, but it seems to me that in many cases it’s not such a good idea to encourage people to post their address on the website, so be careful when posting geographical information on your blog to keep the granularity coarse enough to not give too much away.

That might sound paranoid, but stranger things have happened.

Comments

I just noticed that I neglected to allow comments on two big posts that I have made over the past two days. This was accidental and I have turned the option back on, so if you were thinking about commenting on those posts you can now do so. My apologies to all.

Also, if a post doesn’t have comments turned on (I don’t turn comments on for pointers, generally only commentary), please feel free to email me (the address is in the sidebar).

30 minutes for your 30 dollars

Rant alert…

This is a potentially volatile post with plenty of room for misinterpretation. I am writing from my own personal experience, and I have had a lot of these realisations around my own behaviour and thoughts – so this is as much directed at me as anyone else. I am one of the people I describe, and don’t make the statements flippantly. Also, I don’t believe people should stop supporting aid organisations either, nor that such donations are a bad thing. This is an important part of making a difference in the world. Rather I am suggesting that unless we think deeper than the dollars, and unless we start to recognise our own role, these problems will not be adequately resolved.

There are millions of people around the world that donate money to various organisations (World Vision, Unicef etc.) to sponsor a child (and the like) in the majority world. This is a good thing, I know, and yet I can’t help but think that many of these people don’t actually think beyond the money that they are giving to seek out why, exactly, the money is needed in the first place. Nor do they think about or equate how their own behaviour, as consumers in the western world, have a direct impact on the communities they believe they are helping.

I also think there is also a level of elitism about our thinking – seeing how these poor people need help, they mustn’t know how to manage their own lives and get ahead. There is little recognition that in many instances, the people have tried to get ahead, only to be squashed by the “powers that be” through unfair trade, unfair foreign policy, support of dictatorships and brutal regimes, and in far too many cases, military intervention from military powers such as those that sit on the UN Security Council.

I was thinking about this the other day, and I had this thought: I would like to see an ad from one of these agencies actually tell more of the story. Imagine a deep, male voice-over, with an American accent (I’m picturing the current crop of ads on TV, not making a gender statement there), saying to the TV viewing audience:

“As a result of corporate irresponsibility, bad government, and lack of a global outlook by the people of the ‘minority’ world these children live in squalid conditions, don’t have drinking water, don’t have health services or the chance of an education.”

And instead of asking for money so that some multi-national aid agency can spend 40% of that money on advertising, revenue generating and administration, perhaps it would be nice for once for the ad to finish with something like:

“You may spend $30 each month on sponsoring a child. This month why not spend 30 minutes a week reading about the cause of this child’s poverty, and do something about it. It’s a small price to pay to learn how your actions are helping cause these conditions. Turn off the TV news and read about fair trade and how so-called free trade agreements are devastating communities around the world. Learn about how your government’s trade and foreign affairs policies continue to stack the cards so that they fall on these children.”

Of course, this wouldn’t work. It’d piss people off and alienate them. We don’t like being shown how the things we do cause bad shit to happen in the rest of the world. It’s too depressing. It takes too much energy. Or there’s denial “I do the right thing. I didn’t cause these people’s suffering”. But that’s precisely the point – we don’t directly cause this suffering, and we feel we have no choice to change the world because our institutions that are supposed to deal with these issues don’t.

Would we en-masse change our buying habits? Would we respond to our government and demand that free trade agreements, like those the Australian Government is currently negotiating behind closed doors (without parliamentary scrutiny or approval) with the U.S and Chinese governments? Will we ever realise that our collective inaction needs to be replaced with collective action to effect real change in the world?

People already feel empowered by spending $30 a month thinking that they can make a difference. I can only imagine what would 30 minutes a week would do.