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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Assignment #4.1: Barangay San Antonio Health Interventions, Seeing Positive Action in an LGU



Illustrate (using video, slideshow, visual art, song, text, documentation of a direct action, or anything else) an issue of public health in your neighborhood. In accordance with this week's readings, think about the intersections between economic inequality and different availabilities of healthcare. Consider visiting a community institution (a hospital, a nursing home, a recreation center, a restaurant) to illustrate either a positive response or a contribution to inequality in public health.

Note: I am currently taking up a course boldly called How To Change The World offered by Wesleyan University (offered for free through Coursera.org) and taught by Wesleyan University President, Michael S. Roth. It tackles major issues facing humanity and it is based on discussions brought up during the 2013 Social Good Summit in NY. I am putting up all my assignments on my blog as well.

How To Change The World #4: Acting on Global Disease and Health Needs A Combination of Effective Delivery and Moral Responsibility

Topic 1

Q: Jim Kim, president of the World Bank Group, ascribed much of the success of the fight against HIV/AIDs to a political movement that pushed powerful groups to deal with this health crisis. Describe at least two other examples in which political or social mobilization has had an important impact on fighting disease. How can you become a part of such a movement today?

A: In video lecture 4.4 of Global Disease and Health, I was very inspired to see a congressman (Gregory W. Meeks), a socially-oriented businessman (Mikkel Vestergaard Frandsen) and an action-oriented young girl (Naomi Kodama) talk about what they were all doing about malaria, the third biggest cause of death among developing countries (200M suffered from malaria in 2010 and 650K people died of malaria just a few years ago, particularly young children under five, source: video lecture 4.4). This was an example of both political and social mobilization having an impact on fighting disease. Vestergaard Frandsen brought in the technology, Meeks raises awareness for the disease as part of the Malaria Caucus and Naomi Kodama (together with her father) is behind the grassroots campaign, NothingButNets.net which encourages funding for insecticide-treated bed nets being distributed in sub-Saharan Africa.

In video lecture 4.6 of Global Diseas and Health, I also saw how Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of Global Network, David Harris, executive creative director of Draftfcb, and Peter Koechly, co-founder of Upworthy talked about how a U.S.-based institute collaborated with an ad agency and a website for viral content to promote action against something called neglected tropical diseases like worm infections (hook worm, whip worm and round worm), elephantiasis, river blindness, trachoma, and snail fever. These neglected tropical diseases affect 1 billion people in developing countries, mostly in rural and hard-to-reach areas. That scale is really staggering. However, the awareness campaign has really brought in a lot of awareness, which in turn brought in supporters and funding.

This work of fighting global disease truly needs a combination of effective delivery: this includes gathering support and putting the solutions in the hands of those who most need it (Jessica Cohen, Asst. Professor of Global Health, Harvard University, video lecture 4.4 and 4.5) and ethical/ moral responsibility, the continuing reason for people to care and create pressure (Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, Earth Institute, Columbia University, video lectures 4.6 and 4.7). The immediate step I took after the lectures was to donate to both NothingButNets.net and GlobalNetwork.org. However, as mentioned in lectures 4.6 and 4.7, it’s not enough to “throw money” at an initiative. It starts with creating a social consensus, provoking care, marshaling resources, and designing patterns of intervention.

From Rappler.com

Closer to home, in the Philippines, I am also closely following and supporting the #HungerProject which is a collaboration among a news media website, Rappler, the Philippines’ DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), and U.N.’s World Food Programme. Its aim is to fight malnutrition among our poorest. This is also one effort where my personal action can make a difference. First step: creating social consensus.

Note: I am currently taking up a course boldly called How To Change The World offered by Wesleyan University (offered for free through Coursera.org) and taught by Wesleyan University President, Michael S. Roth. It tackles major issues facing humanity and it is based on discussions brought up during the 2013 Social Good Summit in NY. I am putting up all my assignments on my blog as well.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Morning Meditation



Friday Morning Meditation

The sound of grinding brings
a certain satisfaction to me,
even the smell of wood
shavings gathering in a small,
clear plastic bin.
The tip will never stay sharp,
the pink nub of rubber
at the other end will constantly reduce.
There is something about
this wooden thing that
reminds me of my yearning,
errant self, something I cannot
quite catch even as I mourn
the smallest stub among the bunch,
wondering if it will survive
another sharpening.

edited 2014-07-18 11:59 p.m.

Friday Morning Meditation

The sound of grinding brings
a certain satisfaction to me,
even the smell of wood
shavings gathering in a small,
clear plastic bin.
The tip will never stay sharp,
the pink nub at the other end
will constantly rub out.
I count two inches
before its final
sharpening.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Day After



The Day After

That afternoon, we counted one
broken window and two
good things: running water
and electricity. That evening,
a hazy yellow moon hung over
our silent city. Just hours earlier, I saw
iron roofs flying toward the horizon.

The day after, my daughter asks me
where I am going. "To work,
my baby." She only remembers a whole
day huddled in blankets, reading books
to distract ourselves from the howling outside.

The day after, the sun is so mild, the air
so soft and cool. I can't believe
we had been pummeled by wind
and rain if not for the flagpole fallen
across our building and the leaves
and branches lining the streets as we make
our way to the office.

That morning, trying to stop
my ears, I watched a video
about disappearing bees.
And now it is all
I can think about. There's
another low pressure area
coming this weekend.


Monday, July 14, 2014

How To Change The World #3.1: Supporting Small Family Farmers and Addressing Climate Change Takes a Community



The Assignment: Assignment: Illustrate (using video, slideshow, visual art, song, text, documentation of a direct action, or anything else) an issue relating to climate change in your neighborhood or in your life. This could take the form of illustrating an institution or habit that contributes to climate change (a coal power plant, a long commute) or a project responding positively to climate change (a community supported agriculture project).

Note: I am currently taking up a course boldly called How To Change The World offered by Wesleyan University (offered for free through Coursera.org) and taught by Wesleyan University President, Michael S. Roth. It tackles major issues facing humanity and it is based on discussions brought up during the 2013 Social Good Summit in NY. I am putting up all my assignments on my blog as well.

How To Change The World #3: Personal Narrative (and Action) in Addressing Climate Change


Q: Many have reported on the difficulty of getting people to focus on climate change because it’s such a long-term problem. Describe two techniques you have found useful in getting people to either change the pattern of their own energy consumption or to advocate for public policies that address environmental threats.

A: Recently, I saw four sets of data that really struck me in this report on my country from the World Bank: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2013/06/20/survey-8-of-10-Filipinos-Personally-Experience-Impacts-of-Climate-Change
  1. That 8 out of 10 Filipinos personally experience impacts of climate change
  2. 52% have little to almost NO understanding of climate change. 
  3. Also, 63% have NOT personally participated in efforts to reduce the risks of reducing the effects of climate change. 
  4. And 68% have NOT participated in an effort to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
And as a test of response, I posted the data on my social media page and got what I expected: zero response (no likes, no comments). That’s just the effect of talking about climate change. Prof. Daniel Kammen of UC Berkeley put it very succinctly in the conversation on energy, sustainability and solution science video (video lecture 3.8 of How To Change The World): a) quoting Prof. George Lakoff, cognitive linguist, there’s no verb form (pretty much, no language) for humans being affected by outside forces like climate change and b) there’s no currency for dealing with climate change.

Climate change is the elephant in the room. We all know, especially us Filipinos, that it is happening. But there’s no structure around which to talk about it without getting extremely polarized. I took a consensus among my office mates during a lunch break and they all believe climate change is real. What is hard to put into words and action is what to do about it that will actually make a difference.

The two techniques that I have found that are effective for getting people to care about climate change have to do with something that Prof. Kammen said and what Prof. Alice Haddad, political scientist (video 3.4 Grassroots Politics and Climate Change) said.

1) Prof. Alice Haddad talked about how art is one potent way to engage people. It’s because art creates narrative, something people care about. It is something that moves them and helps them emotionally engage with an issue or a concept.

2) Prof. Kammen talked about connecting a highly abstract thing like climate change to a deeply personal level of experience.

Overall, I’m also inspired by the work of E.F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered. Schumacher advocates a return to small, appropriate technologies that empower people without destroying the environment.



For me, the personal story/ narrative, together with action, are far more effective than rhetoric and fear-mongering. My simple story about signing up with a local initiative called Good Food Community http://www.goodfoodcommunity.com/, which helps local smallholder farmers invest in, and continue to practice, organic farming is a small step in the direction towards addressing climate change (ex. organic farming practices and lower carbon footprint by buying local produce). It’s also something that people responded to positively. It’s an action that could easily be taken by a family and it’s connected to my daily life. It’s a very personal choice but it’s not exclusive. Anyone can make this choice. It’s about doing something that anybody could do without being overwhelmed.

Note: I am currently taking up a course boldly called How To Change The World offered by Wesleyan University (offered for free through Coursera.org) and taught by Wesleyan University President, Michael S. Roth. It tackles major issues facing humanity and it is based on discussions brought up during the 2013 Social Good Summit in NY. I am putting up all my assignments on my blog as well.

Monday, July 07, 2014

How To Change The World #2.1: My Neighbor Behind The Wall, Dyna (Documenting Inequality and The Urban Poor Along My Street)




Assignment:
Illustrate (using video, slideshow, visual art, song, text, documentation of a direct action, or anything else) an issue of inequality in your neighborhood. You could document either excess or poverty, but in either case, think about whether the inequality is justified or illegitimate. Consider visiting a community institution (a school, a soup kitchen, a country club) to illustrate the issue.

Note: I am currently taking up a course boldly called How To Change The World offered by Wesleyan University (offered for free through Coursera.org) and taught by Wesleyan University President, Michael S. Roth. It tackles major issues facing humanity and it is based on discussions brought up during the 2013 Social Good Summit in NY. I am putting up all my assignments on my blog as well.

How To Change The World #2: The Failure of Agrarian Reform in The Philippines and a Small Initiative That Can Contribute to Smallholder Farmers

Q: Describe the persistence of poverty in your neighborhood or region. What is the most important thing you can do to alleviate the suffering caused by poverty? Find at least one other person with whom you can take action that makes a positive difference. Describe what you’ve done and why it matters.

A: In the Philippines, 27.9% of the population of around 95 million falls below the poverty line. This is considered high, especially when compared to other countries that were in similar circumstances as the Philippines in the 1980s like China, Thailand, and Indonesia. (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_the_Philippines). There are many probable causes, such as corruption. However, I’d like to focus on just one aspect (though still related to corruption, which seems to touch all aspects of the Philippines). Jeffrey Sachs (Common Wealth, Economics For a Crowded Planet) describes economic development through four basic stages: subsistence economy (mostly agricultural) to commercial economy to an emerging-market to technology-based economy. In the Philippines, one will find all four in various stages and sectors.

I was particularly struck by Sachs’ emphasis on agriculture as a starting point. He cites the Green Revolution in poverty alleviation (case study: India versus Africa). I disagree with certain aspects of Green Revolution: the use of pesticides, the potential over-use of fertilizer and the disastrous outcomes of mono-crops. However, I did see the point of poverty alleviation starting from the basics: moving beyond subsistence.

In the Philippines, land reform has been a failure, starting from the original Comprehensive Agrarian Reform (CARP) in 1986 under President Cory Aquino and the Extension with Reforms (CARPer) in 2009 under President Gloria Arroyo (source: http://bulatlat.com/main/2010/01/01/agrarian-reform-in-2009-more-of-the-same-failed-program/). In fact, Arroyo herself is linked to diverting funds intended for smallholder farmers to her political campaign in 2004 (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fertilizer_Fund_scam). This failure of land reform has led to the rising migration from rural areas to the cities, merely transferring poverty from the provinces to urban areas (source: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/38217/agrarian-reform-failure-has-led-to-squatter-problem-in-cities-says-urban-poor-group).

So what is one thing I can do as an ordinary citizen that can make a difference in this scenario? It takes more than just one other person. It takes a community of like-minded people. Recently, I joined a group called Good Food Community (http://www.goodfoodcommunity.com/about_us/how_it_works). The idea is to support smallholder family farms by buying their produce in advance. It helps farmers go through the trouble of learning and applying organic farming techniques while they are assured of a market that will buy their produce. This isn’t based on Esther Duflo’s randomized controlled trials (RCT) for the best use of the money that I am investing in this initiative. But what I do know is I am making a difference in a very basic stage of the Philippines’ development: agriculture. It is a small step. But as Pranab Bardhan says in his paper, Little, Big, Two Ideas About Fighting Global Poverty, “there are no general recipes or quick fixes for poverty. In their (the micro-experimentalists, aka J-PAL or Jamal Poverty Action Lab and RCT-proponents like Esther Duflo) judgment, small transfers and nudges can make a difference.” I agree. I’ve joined a small citizen-based initiative for now. But this model is replicable and actionable. I think, with a little more time and a lot of social sharing, this is a step towards poverty alleviation in my country.

Note: I am currently taking up a course boldly called How To Change The World offered by Wesleyan University (offered for free through Coursera.org) and taught by Wesleyan University President, Michael S. Roth. It tackles major issues facing humanity and it is based on discussions brought up during the 2013 Social Good Summit in NY. I am putting up all my assignments on my blog as well.


Monday, June 30, 2014

How To Change The World #1.1: The Stinky Bridge, A Commons (Case Study and Call To Action)


The Stinky Bridge, A Commons (Case Study & Call To Action) 2014 06-29 v1 light from Justine Tajonera

Please do leave a comment regarding information on how to mobilize local government or local organizations for a clean up of this small polluted creek.

Note: I am currently taking up a course boldly called How To Change The World offered by Wesleyan University (offered for free through Coursera.org) and taught by Wesleyan University President, Michael S. Roth. It tackles major issues facing humanity and it is based on discussions brought up during the 2013 Social Good Summit in NY. I am putting up all my assignments on my blog as well.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

How To Change The World #1: Philippine Commons and Moving Towards a Cooperative Future

Question: Describe at least two examples of how individuals or private corporations have tried to take something to which a community had free access and restrict this access on the basis of private ownership or price. What can you do to bring something back into the commons?

Answer:  One example, at least from my country, the Philippines, involves the sale of patented seeds used for agriculture. According to a report from gmeducation.org http://www.gmeducation.org/latest-news/p207220-the-monsanto-monopoly.html, 270,000 small-holding farmers are being forced to grow GM (genetically modified) corn and are ending up in debt with the cost of corn seeds going up 282% since its introductory price. In the Philippines, the seed suppliers also happen to be the lenders, making the arrangement highly convenient for the seed supplier and more and more to the detriment of the small farmer. Seeds are a form of commons to which small family farmers should have fair access. Sadly, however, these seeds have become the private property of some companies through intellectual property/ patenting and thus, are sold back to the farmers at a higher price than they would have paid for unpatented seeds.

 Another example of how private ownership and market has affected a commons is our very own Boracay in the Philippines. Please read this article for more background: http://www.rappler.com/life-and-style/30130-boracay-paradise-lost. Once a pristine beach with clear water and naturally sandy white beaches, property on this island was bought up quickly and it has become a perfect example of a “tragedy of the commons.” With each resort only thinking about its own profits, each resort exploited common natural resources available such as the open beach, dumping refuse into it. Now, the whole island, including all the resorts, suffers from the common problem of polluted and infected water (there have been cases of tourists suffering from ameobiasis due to the contaminated water). I have personally seen a pipe coming from the resorts expelling waste into the shore. I did not hazard swimming in the sea after seeing that.

What I’ve done for the former is I’ve subscribed to http://www.goodfoodcommunity.com/ where I become a stakeholder of organic and sustainable agriculture by subscribing (ordering in advance) the organic vegetables being grown by small family farmers in Tarlac, thereby assuring them of profit for the work they do. This is called shared agriculture and reflects a more cooperative view of human nature (as described by Yochai Benkler in his book, The Leviathan and The Penguin). This way, I am not supporting unsustainable industrial farming (including patented seeds and similar technology) and I have become part of a community that cooperates for a common social good. Hopefully, this becomes not just isolated cases of citizen action but a movement towards support for small family farmers and organic, sustainable farming.

For the latter, I am committed to promoting and practicing low impact, responsible ecotourism. Also, instead of traveling to other countries, I’d like to make it a point to visit the islands of my country and contribute to local communities without taking away from the local ecology. Thus, smaller carbon footprint and support for small, artisanal industries in local environments.

Note: I am currently taking up a course boldly called How To Change The World offered by Wesleyan University (offered for free through Coursera.org) and taught by Wesleyan University President, Michael S. Roth. It tackles major issues facing humanity and it is based on discussions brought up during the 2013 Social Good Summit in NY. I am putting up all my assignments on my blog as well.

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