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Water Wars Redux

What’s up fam,

This week’s Economist magazine had a great 16 page report on water and I strongly recommend you buy it because we are entering new territory regarding access to clean water. Previously, I have written about the growing battle for the right to water and The Economist does a great job of sounding the alarm. Roughly 1.1 billion people don’t have access to clean water. What really had me thinking was two main things. The first surrounded the notion of water wars and conflicts over water. The Economist highlighted the work of the Pacific Institute in California that has an awesome interactive map detailing the history of water conflicts across the world.

The old adage is that “a hungry mob is an angry mob.” but without 1.1 billion people without access to clean water, that adage may have to change to say that “a thirsty mob is an angry mob.” I was distressed reading about how diarrhea is the biggest single cause of child deaths across the globe. Now think about all the water and nutrients that need to be replaced when you have diarrhea and imagine the pain that three and four year olds are suffering from even as you read these words. For more information on this topic, I found some good info from the US Coalition for Child Survival.

Moreover, I remember reading about water shortages years ago and thought, “Why don’t we just get water from the ocean?” I find it interesting that the cover story for The Economist magazine involved man-made life but with all of man’s intellect and hubris, we still haven’t found a way to efficiently desalinize salty ocean water. Of course, desalinization is no silver bullet and we have to reduce demand through shorter showers, rejecting bottled water, revising irrigation strategies, washing our cars less, etc. In short, we need a world changing water master plan that decreases conflicts over water. Do your part.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

The way church should be…

Great article from CNN I read about last week regarding how I think church should be. Read the article below, with my commentary to follow.

(CNN) — The pastor of a non-denominational church in Argyle, Texas, passed around the collection plate to his congregants earlier this year — and asked them to take money from it.

Donations at the Cross Timbers Community Church had slumped because of the economic downturn. Pastor Toby Slough thought that his congregants had to be hurting, too. His gesture, instead, was met with an unexpected response: The church had its highest offering ever.

It was a eureka moment for Slough: Give away money to those who need it, knowing his church members will help fill the need. “In these economic times, we can’t be so into church business that we forget what our business is, and that is to help people,” Slough told CNN television affiliate KDAF in Dallas-Forth Worth, Texas.

In the past two months, the 9-year-old church has done just that: handed out a half-million dollars to members and non-members who are struggling.

“We’ve taken $200,000 and spread it out to organizations — four local, two missions that are feeding and clothing people in these tough times,” Slough said. “We’ve paid utility bills for members of our church that are unemployed or under-employed.”

His favorite giveaway came three weeks ago. The church gave 1,400 families $50 each and told them to hand it out to someone else. One of the recipients was Katie Lewis. “I’ve been alone so long. Just to be thought of and to be remembered, to be welcomed — it’s amazing,” she said, crying. Church members are pleasantly surprised. “You don’t hear about a church giving money away,” Amy Sullivan said. Slough said he is not concerned if people try to take advantage of the church’s generosity.

The church has now formed a group to look into the best ways to give out money. And, Slough said, it plans on doing so as long as there is a need in the community

What makes this story incredibly hype is that far too many churches berate their members to give to the building fund, church anniversary fund, or join the VIP or the $1,000 line. People are hurting and if I recall correctly, the purpose of giving to church is to maintain or expand the church ministry along with having enough resources in the store house for God’s children. This storehouse concept is all but lost in many of the churches I know and the fact that it made CNN, speaks to how relatively rare this kind of generosity is. I wish more churches went this route because if we are not helping people in their time of need, we as the church risk losing relevance.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

John Legend's Commencement Address at UPenn

I generally disdain the Cult of the Celebrity. It frustrates me when the unqualified, unverified, and unquestioned present weak arguments and empty claims that are accepted as facts given from experts. While I also reject the Cult of Expertise, I’d take that one over celebrity.

The Cult of Celebrity & the Cult of Expertise often cross paths during this time of year: graduation time. Colleges across the country are hosting commencement celebrations and inviting speakers of all types to inspire students to go off and change the world. President Obama. First Lady Michelle Obama. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Newark, NJ Mayor Corey Booker. John Legend.

John Legend? Yeah, that John Legend.

He addressed the graduating class of UPenn on Monday, the school he graduated from 10 years ago. At first, I saw this as a classic case of the Cult of the Celebrity:

  1. Why exactly is this guy giving this address.
  2. Is he really that interesting/compelling/appropriate?
  3. I bet I’d give a better speech than him

While I will definitely not concede the third point, I was pleasantly surprised with the address he delivered. So much so in fact, that I’d like to share it with all of you.

My key takeaway from the speech was:

Now, I don’t assume that the truth is commonly found. Like its bedfellows of democracy and justice, I believe it is quite rare to find. It is born through process. It is gained through questioning. It is found in listening. It’s about accepting that complex problems require complicated solutions.

Enjoy this, and share it.

One Love. One II.

P.S. Now, back to my hating on the Cult of the Celebrity.

Be smarter next Earth Day

Green Thumbs Down

Green Thumbs Down

“Eighty-five percent of consumers have this intention to save energy, but only three percent do. What the hell is this massive gap between intention and action all about?” (Thomas Scaramellino, founder of Efficiency 2.0)

Today is Earth Day. This year needs to be Earth Year. This decade needs to be Earth Decade. This life needs to be Earth Life.

Why isn’t it?

Maybe it’s because the way we encourage people to get “green” is broken. Counter-productive. Wrong. The next time you see the promo during 24 that points you at a Fox website about how to get “green”, think twice.

Our approach to increasing environmental awareness is so devoid of nuance that what it gains in accesibility it sacrifices in effectiveness. Hearing “green” tips without context is like taking showers without water: nothing gets cleaner.

Yes, we all need to use real towels instead of paper ones. Yes, we all need to turn off the bathroom light when not in the bathroom. But we need more. We need better. We need smarter.

Take time next month to figure out what your environmental impact actually is. There are lots of ways to do this:

  • Everyone can see what their personal environmental impact is by answering the question: What’s my Carbon Footprint?
  • Consumers can use GoodGuide to find out the environmental impact of the things you buy.
  • Businesses can use Earthster to find out the environmental impact of their supply chains.

By taking stock of your environmental impact, you can then focus your efforts to reduce it in the most productive way. Better information opens the window to understanding. Understanding opens the door to action. Action opens the floodgates of change and progress.

One Love. One II.

Image Credit: iampiri on Flickr

Obama drops the ball on energy – Black on Black Thought

This is part of the bi-weekly Black on Black Thought feature.

What’s up fam,

I am responding to James’ article this week where he lauds Obama’s recent policy reversal on supporting off-shore drilling, essentially claiming that when it comes to comprehensive energy policy reform, there is no magic bullet and we need to embrace all solutions and not the solution. And Obama gave red meat to conservatives by explaining that he would support offshore drilling as part of an overall package in part because “we shouldn’t allow the Perfect to be the enemy of the Good.” Read More…

Stop Speculation Now – Black on Black Thought

Here\'s what I think at the pump

This is part of the bi-weekly Black on Black Thought feature.

Guess what? Gas is expensive. Expensive gas impacts almost everything in Americans’ day-to-day lives by making almost everything we do or consume more costly. One of the large contributors to the high cost of fuel is speculation, which in simple terms means to buy something you have no purpose for other than to make money off of its unstable price.

Well, the argument against excessive speculation, especially on commodities like oil, has brought together groups of citizens, organizations, and companies that often times are at odds with one another. The Stop Oil Speculation Now effort has caused many to join in a call for smarter, more responsible government regulation and an end to one of the major drivers if high gas prices.

Read More…

And you thought gas was high, what about the food?

What’s up fam,

The price of gas is comfortably over $4 and is not expected to come down soon. We are at the point where you need to buy gas cap locks to keep people from siphoning off your gas. People are breaking even just to go to work and this is even more pressing for places like Metro-Detroit where you don’t have a reliable and efficient mass transit infrastructure. However, the MS M focus on the price of gas ignores a more sinister problem; hunger. The price of gas is probably more important than Obama getting the nomination as Fred Pearce from the Yale Environment reports,

food prices have been soaring this year, causing more misery for the world’s poor than any credit crunch. The geopolitical shockwaves have spread round the world, with food riots in Haiti, strikes over rice shortages in Bangladesh, tortilla wars in Mexico, and protests over bread prices in Egypt.” Read More…