Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Toilet conference opens in Delhi
By Sanjoy Majumder
BBC News, Delhi

A World Toilet Summit has opened in the Indian capital, Delhi, with more than 40 countries taking part.

The four-day meeting will examine solutions and technologies that can be used to provide a basic need for nearly half the world's population.

According to estimates, 2.6bn people around the world lack access to a hygienic toilet.

The United Nations hopes to halve this figure by 2015 as part of its millennium development goals.

In India alone, more than 700 million people have no access to toilets which have proper waste disposal systems.

'Familiar sight'

"It is as important an issue as anything," says Bindeshwar Pathak of Sulabh International, an NGO that promotes the use of low-cost toilets in India and is joint organiser of the summit.

"It is mostly the Asian, African and Latin American countries that lack basic sanitation. So that's what we will be discussing at the summit," he adds.

It is a sight familiar to anyone travelling around India by train.

Early morning, many Indian villagers head to the nearest railway track and squat by its side relieving themselves.

Others use their fields, the forests or any piece of open land that they can find.

Women are particular badly off - they either have to head out before dawn or in the night when it is relatively more private, but it means they are vulnerable to disease or even sexual assault.

The UN wants to remedy the situation by 2025.

But the problem is that it is quite expensive for most countries in the developing world to set up western-style toilets and sewage systems.

But there are alternatives.

Anita Jha, vice-president of Sulabh International explains, "We have several models of traditional Indian-style squat toilets. These range in cost from 700 to 3,000 rupees ($18 - $75) and also use very little water."

"That makes them very useful in countries with a water scarcity problem," she says.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/10/31 07:17:29 GMT


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Saturday midnight update.....a non-philisophical post

(So I guess before I start, I'd just want to encourage anyone who reads this to keep thinking and praying about Burma, and keeping what's happening there in your conversations with others. The people who are working towards freedom desperately need international opinion to be with them.)

So today, as with most saturdays, I used the morning to catch up on the sleep that i'd missed during the previous week. This enables me to sleep only 4-5 hours a night mon-friday, and has pretty much been the system I've used for the past 5 years's probably not the healthiest but it works.

After getting up and helping (just a little bit) to clean up the house and my room, I decided to get on my bike and find a garden centre. I'd been given directions by Dave from my church and I'd got them mixed up the saturday before, so this time, I was a bit more confident (armed with even more specific directions). I found a great big one at the top of this extremely large hill about 20 minutes cycle from my house. I'd been so focused on getting there that I really hadn't put too much thought into how I'd get what I bought back. I bought bulbs to grow garlic and onions (trying to experiment a little with this growing your own food stuff) but then also had to buy compost and a big enough pot to plant them in. The smallest and cheapest bag of compost they had was 25L, which in case you don't REALLY FLIPPIN HEAVY!!! especially when you've got to carry it on your back on a 20 minute cycle ahead of you.

Not only that but I had to balance this 2 foot wide, 1.5 foot deep pot on the bar...let's just say I must have looked quite the sight (my friend Emma commented that just seeing me cycle in the first place would have been quite the sight enough.....thanks Emma). But I did make it back although slightly dripping in sweat and was glowing with pride as I arrived back to my house. My housemates obviously didn't recognize the enormity of my achievement as they didn't all stream out of their rooms to applaud me when I got home, as I was thinking they should ;)

Anyway, planting day will be tomorrow, so I'll let you know how that goes...I've been reliably informed that it's almost impossible to mess up growing the varieties of veg that i've chosen, so I'll take that as a challenge.

Tonight, the big event was the England v. South Africa final of the Rugby World Cup. I wasn't really interested in the match itself, but I thought it's a good excuse to hang out with people, and when England started falling behind by an ever increasing amount close to the end I actually felt a soft spot for them and could cheer them on. I didn't escape the night though without having loads of abuse about the Irish referee thrown my way. In all fairness he did make a lot of dodgy calls and missed a couple key ones as well. At one point, when the ref missed what seemed like an obvious foul on England, my friend asked sharply "why didn't the ref see that?" I said, "It's probably something to do with 500 years of occupation". Couldn't resist.

Anyway, it was a good day overall. School has been hard in some ways to get back into the swing of things. We're doing our Neurology course at the moment, which is really interesting, but also pretty challenging for being just back from the summer. We've had "Stroke" week, "Spinal Cord Injury" week and coming up this week will be "Multiple Sclerosis" week (we learn about a lot more than just those conditions, but the idea is that those topics give a broad and clinical context to what we're learning).

Friday, October 12, 2007

So did anybody else have a little chuckle when they heard about today's announcement of Al Gore's new Nobel Peace Prize? I have to say, this is more than a little disappointing. Not that I don't believe that the issues his recent campaign cause of Climate change isn't extremely important, it'll probably end up being one of the most important issues in my lifetime, but Al Gore? It's no where near April, so I don't think this is a joke...

Let's take a brief look at some other Nobel Laureates, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Mother Theresa, Aung San Suu Kyi, Muhamad Yunus.....Al Gore? I guess my problem is more that Gore hasn't been at his current gig very long. The others on the long list of laureates seem to have been committed to their causes for quite some time, often giving the majority of their lives, if not giving the ultimate sacrifice. Gore stopped being Vice-President 6 years ago, and he wasn't championing Climate Change much back then. Even Jimmy Carter, another recipient, had to work in Humanitarian work (in health charities, and Habitat for Humanity as well as others) for 20 years before being awarded his.

Most of the Laureates are true peacemakers, people who are required to sacrifice, to make unpopular decisions, decisions which put their careers and often their lives on the line. What has Al Gore had to give up? Has he championed his cause so much that he has given up his mansions to live in smaller more eficient more environmentally friendly settings? Has his life become harder in any way? Politically he has only strengthened his position, in what many of his critics think of being a far too "calculated" way (although I'm not THAT cynical..but close). Why not award the prize to someone in greenpeace who has given their lives to this cause before it became popular? or even to a leading scientist who is championing the search for evidence in the face of skeptics? Why give it to a politician who has given far too ambiguous an answer to whether he'll run for president or not? Why give it to some guy who was just behind a documentary? I'm sure Al Gore is a great guy and great politician in many ways, but this was just the wrong choice.

If Al Gore were to make clear that he doesn't have personal political ambitions as the motivation for his work, and if he was to truly reach out to the political right, to help them understand and put aside other differences. If he would make sacrifices and risk his reputation with his usual constituency, then maybe he could be in the running, cause this would be what a peace maker should do, right? Instead, he has gone about his work producing more controversy, and less peace....sorry, but someone made a huge mistake here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Burma Petition, worth your time.....

These guys are close to reaching 1 million signatories for their petition. Once they get 1 million they will be taking out advertisements in major newspapers, trying to perhaps shame the Chinese government into accountability, sign up and help them out if you have a second.

Stand with the Burmese Protesters
After decades of military dictatorship, the people of Burma are rising – and they need our help. Marches begun by monks and nuns snowballed, bringing hundreds of thousands to the streets. Now the crackdown has begun, but the protests are spreading...

When the Burmese last marched in 1988, the military massacred thousands. If the world stands up and supports their struggle, this time they could win. We're in a race against time-- targeting the dictatorship's main backer China in a global advertising campaign, delivering the petition to the UN secretary-general and sending the Burmese our support via radio--

To Chinese President Hu Jintao and the UN Security Council:

We stand alongside the citizens of Burma in their peaceful protests. We urge you to oppose a violent crackdown on the demonstrators, and to support genuine reconciliation and democracy in Burma. We pledge to hold you accountable for any further bloodshed.

Click HERE for Petition.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I'm here now safe and sound in England. I got here two days ago and spent today in the first of a two-day conference on Law and Ethics in medicine. An interesting subject, but I have to say they really could have put forward the ideas in a more interesting and engaging way, they did try though, and perhaps it's just that this is our first day back from summer, so it is a bit hard to sit and concentrate through a 9-5 lecture day.

I just saw that a friend of mine posted this on her facebook. It's really interesting so I thought I'd post it to pass it on.

Click on the link below from the New York times. It's a selection of quotes that a human rights worker has put together from Iranian Blogs which all discuss the Iranian president's recent speech at an American university. It's quite interesting to see the diversity of opinions, especially considering iranian blogs are highly regulated and people suffer intimidation (and worse) for putting up politically divergent posts.