New Delhi’s Heat and Street Life

Author Megha Bahree travels extensively through India reporting on the country’s transformation from a traditional agrarian economy to an industrial one. She is currently a freelance reporter, and was formerly on staff at the Wall Street Journal and Forbes.

New Delhi: 6 am and it’s already crossed 90F, the sun’s golden light getting hotter by the minute.

I head out for my morning run to a trail a couple of miles from my place. To get there I run past two temples. The first one, with a small brick-red arch that’s partly draped by the leaves of a banana tree, is often a wedding venue for some southern Indian communities which typically tie the knot at that hour. I’ll often wave to women in silk saris with jasmine flowers in their hair.

A few meters down the street is the other temple. Every morning a man drives on his motorcycle to this temple, the gas tank and the front of his motorcycle hidden under several clear plastic bags of orange marigolds, strung together in garlands, to be sold to worshippers.

Across the street from this temple a skinny, old, self-proclaimed god man sits on the pavement. His bright red cheap satin tunic and saffron colored cotton sarong (lungi) clash with his matted shoulder-length scraggly grey mop and parched brown skin. He peers through thick round spectacles in a brown frame at sheafs of paper, a holy book perhaps, as he loudly sings hymns. Every time someone enters the temple, his quavering voice gets louder.

There’s a village of sorts near here and the villagers send their cows out every morning—for a walk or to forage for food or who knows what else. As they walk down the road in groups of twos and threes, at least one or two of the cows will go up to the skinny sage, nuzzle his face, take some of the food he offers.
English: Velotaxi and cow in the Main Bazaar o...

English: Velotaxi and cow in the Main Bazaar of Delhi, 2004. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On most mornings I find myself threading my way between the cows even as I dodge a wine colored Rolls Royce, a couple of BMWs and Mercs that are on their way to drop the owners kids to school and a sunshine yellow Tata Nano that zips down the street as if it’s a Lamborghini, or trying to be one.

It can get a bit crowded around here.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Ukraine After Yanukovich

By Halyna Klymuk Chomiak, Maidan citizen journalist

President Putin visits Ukraine and Prime Minis...

President Putin visits Ukraine and Prime Minister of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that Yanukovych has fled Ukraine, one might ask who is running the country.  The answer is simple the Ukrainian people are.  The people who ran an organized Maidan since November 2013. The people who barricaded themselves for protection, who bore no arms, and who asked for Yanukovych to please leave. The people who organized themselves in the “Hromadesky Sector” or The Civic Sector and ran Maidan in an orderly manner.

There are many people who stood by and carried the Maidan on through the day and night, through the frost and cold and ice. They were the opposition, the volunteers, the captains of the brigades and the leaders of the various divisions of the civic sector. What better group than this to take charge of their own country. There is not one dictator among them.

While attending a meeting of one of the above mentioned groups, I noted that an organizational chart was presented in the form of a butterfly. On one wing there was a specialist/expert in his or her field. There was at least one and hopefully two. These would be experts in tax,  health, social services, education, legal, economic, construction, city planning etc. Each expert would have a manager.  The managers would be mobile while the experts stayed put. The managers would jump over the body of the butterfly and meet regularly on the other wing. Then they would jump back and report to their experts. In this way there would be communication and directive in a cooperative manner. I found this to be incredibly interesting.

The education level of the people who want to take charge of themselves is high. Many of the people in camoflauge in helmets and masks had advanced degrees and professions they were not able to use, because of the corruption. The mutual respect and willingness to work together made a deep impression on me. In today’s world with so much information flooding the media, sometimes correct but very often wrong, it is difficult to define oneself and find a way to operate that will be for the good of all citizens. Ukrainians are trying.

The national models of  the EU , the Americas and the commonwealth are not necessarily the best models for Ukraine. After learning from all these horrific experiences, and having a revolution on a city square, maybe we need to trust the brilliant willful people, and let them build their own nation for the first time since they owned and operated  Kyiv Rus’.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Understanding Ukraine’s Maidan

The Flag of Ukraine waving over Kiev's Maidan ...

The Flag of Ukraine waving over Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Halyna Klymuk Chomiak, Maidan citizen journalist

Many people think that EuroMaidan began the day after people realized that Yanukovych was not serious about reaching an agreement with the EU. They became fearful of a regression and a union with Russia and Putin. They began to do what Ukrainian people do when there is confusion, danger, and something to talk about. They begin walking to the Maidan. Here it is November 22nd and there is a problem so the walking and gathering begins.

This was true January 22, 1918 when people started to walk, gather and come in wagons with the blue and yellow flags flying everywhere. I know about this, because Dr. Bilynsky a colonel in the UNR army lived with us when I was growing up and told us about it. There was no internet, no social media, no television at the time. This was a huge euphoric gathering, but the world did not hear about it. But the maidan is where they gathered and Maidan is where the reading of the declaration of Ukrainian Independence took place on this date.

By January 29th, it was too much for the Russians to handle. They sent 4000 Bolsheviks to recapture Ukraine and met a group of Ukrainian soldiers at the Kruty train station. Of the 400 men 300 were young students who stepped out to defend themselves against the oncoming Bolsheviks. Over 200 of them died within hours. It was back at the Maidan that this horrible tragedy was mentioned in March of that year 1918.

By 1933 over 14 million people starved in Eastern Ukraine because of Stalin’s planned famine. This happens to be the 80th anniversary of the tragic Holodomor in which 10 million starved to death. Andrea Chalupa said it clearly in a Time Magazine Article from 12/2013 “ Stalin engineered the famine to rid himself of a stubborn enemy. Ukrainians had fought for their independence during the Russian revolution and for a short time they had beaten back the Reds. What’s more, Ukraine being the “bread basket of Europe” had a rich and ancient culture of farmers, who wanted to hold on to their land and their identity. As a civilization, Ukraine is more than a 1000 years older than Moscow. For Stalin as for Putin today, this would be a very hard back to break.”

During the great famine Holodomor, Stalin replaced the dead Ukrainians with Russians who were deported from their homeland in the North. They changed the face, the language, and the work ethic of Eastern Ukraine. This is where Yanukovych was brought up. It is no wonder that his heart is not with Ukraine but with Putin. It is no wonder that he is causing havoc amongst the Ukrainian people. And who is it that is coming to the Maidan to figure out what to do about the future? The students and young people of course. As in the battle of Kruty but today there is internet, social media and communication. This can’t be hidden as it was in days gone by.

By August 24, 1991 Ukraine was again ready for a walk a maidan. They proclaimed independence and tried again to tear away from the Russians who were the Soviets of the day before. By November 2004 there was still a problem. This man called Yanukovych who had grown up in those lands that had lost millions of their people to Holodomor, wanted to be president. He was raised by very pro Russian pro Soviet types. This wasn’t going to work so the people went for a walk. They walked to Maidan because yes, sure enough there was a problem. This walk had some technology supporting it so it got a name. It was the Orange Revolution. Unfortunately those winners were not yet strong enough to hold on to the country. They began to argue amongst themselves, and before you know Yanukovych the loser is in power. He actually had a come back, like a movie star. He incarcerated Yulia Tymoshenko, snuffed out the opposition and found a bunch of cronies like himself and they are behaving as if they were in charge of a drug cartel. They are accumulating enormous wealth and guess where their investments are.? Yes you are right in the West in Europe. That doesn’t sound to good now does it. He is running to Putin every chance he gets and has left the Ukrainian people and the Europeans out standing in the cold.

By November 24th a month ago, over 100 thousand people had gathered at Maidan. They did what Ukrainians do, they walked to Maidan because there was a problem. The difference this time has been internet, social media, communication with the world and the walk and gathering had a name. It had a title. It was called EUROMAYDAN. Outside of Ukraine, 4 people stood in front of the Ukrainian Mission to the UN with signs, we want Europe. UkrainEurope. Word had gone out and the Ukrainian Community in New York the local UCCA branch sent out a poster per internet and called the people to gather after the annual Holodomor Mass at St. Patricks Cathedral on 5th Ave. The Maidan became global. It traveled from Ukraine to St. Patricks and the Ukrainian Mission. By Sunday scores of cities were uniting with Maidan. It began to have an identity. EUROMAIDAN became a new word. Slava Ukrayini , Heroyam Slava became the new greeting of EuroMAIDAN sympathizers. A movement was born.

Identifying posters were made and shared all over the world. e.g. I’m Ukrainian I can’t keep Calm, and Ukraine belongs to EU, and No to Russia Yes to EU and many many more. During the Maidan issues were discussed. Politicians came to speak. World leaders came to speak. It became newsworthy and slowly the world press began to mention that something was happening in KYIV.

By November 30th Berkut the riot police came out and started beating on the peaceful protesters and students. The ones taken to prison became known as The Bankova Prisoners because that is the street they were beaten on. #Euromaidan FB page SOS was set up to offer free legal assistance and it still works today. The most recent arrests and assaults have been the stabbing of Dmytro Prypets in Kharkiv, Pavlo Mazurenko in Maidan and Tatyana Chornovol on Christmas Day December 25th.

To date no one has been prosecuted for the November 30 and December 1st attacks. Tomorrow will be the one month anniversary. On December 25th UDAR Klichko’s party put together a list of 80 perpetrators for the attacks on the peaceful demonstrators. This information can be found on klichko.org web site.

Later Yanukovych visited Russia on December 6th smiling all the way. This spurs on a huge march to Maidan and by December 8th on Sunday Lenin is toppled over. The last of the big Lenin statues in Kyiv. The riot police try to dismantle the barricades to no avail. After the December 1st attacks the people barricaded themselves in at Maidan. They were not going to be beaten again. By December 10th western diplomats began to visit Maidan and express their solidarity. McCain, Murphy and others to name a few. On December 14th during the Okean Elzy performance the light show the people put on was spectacular. The lifting of the phones for Heroyam Slava was wonderful. McCain saw this we all did. By the 17th Russia and Ukraine had signed an agreement and Maidan continues to draw people. There is still a big problem, and that is Ukraine does not want to be in any kind of union with Russia.

As long as there is a problem, Maidan will continue. Why? Because that’s who we are. That’s what we do. Ukrainians get together and talk about problems. This goes back to Kozak times. The Kozaks practiced democracy long before there was a Ukraine.

We the Ukrainian people will make it through this one as well. Why because the young people don’t want to play this game any longer. I have seen it for myself. No one under 30 wants PUTIN.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Universal Basic Income: Utopia or Necessity?

Activist Karolina Nadolska proposes a new vision for society’s economic development.

future cityPICTURE IT: December 2040 AD. The automatic truck just delivered my grocery ordered by my refrigerator. Upps … I forgot to send it a reminder about our Friday Steak Party. I wanted my refrigerator to order six T-bones from the nearby lab that specializes in beet-colored T-bones. Some of my guests are coming by the robot driven 6.0 Get You There Taxis (damn – I always loved talking to the taxi drivers in big cities, no more.. ).  In this world more and more people are either unemployed or employed by marketing agencies, social platforms, entertainment companies, ideas labs etc.

OK, so this is the bone chilling image usually produced in the Universal Basic Income (UBI) campaigns. UBI is proposed systemof social security that regularly provides each citizen with a sum of money unconditionally (not to be confused with other concepts like minimum wage).

But it is more than that technical view of the world. It is a basic redefinition of social space. UBI or a basic income will contribute to a healthier society and more productive society. Couldn’t your work – whatever it may be – be more effective if you didn’t have to worry about meeting rent? The list of those who could more effectively contribute to a more democratic and equal society is long: those who work in NGO’s or civil society will be compensated for their work; mothers staying home with their kids will be finally appreciated; artists who after a long career in search of self-expression end up with a (minimum) retirement to finance a new installation for the local park; kids with bright minds would finance their higher education. The UBI would also improve the safety of society with decreased acts of violence, theft, and aggression. Why would you steel bikes, wallets if you get a guaranteed sum of money every month?

Who would pays for this utopia, you may ask? In France, if we combine all aid: RSA, housing allowances, family allowances, unemployment, single parent, minimum age, disabled, student scholarships, etc. the savings in administrative processing of aid and control of what is already obtained provide a basic income to every French in the amount of 398 Euros (532 USD) per adult and 192 Euro (265 USD) per child. This is what Marc Basquiat, engineer and economist, calculated at the end of six years of work on the issue. But this of course may cause a fight from thousands of unionized bureaucrats who want to hold on to their comfortable office jobs. It is not easy to transform society for those with entrenched interests (it took decades for communist systems to topple, and their economic dismantling will continue to take decades).

Another objection comes to mind: if you get the money without working, everyone will stay home! However, when people are asked about it, the results are surprising. To the question “Will you still go to work after receiving a Universal Basic Income? 60% of respondents answered “YES”. 30% answered that they will continue to work, but maybe part time or not under new circumstances. Only 10% answered that they would consider traveling, taking care of others or going back to school. However, if asked: “If we introduced a basic income, do you think the others would go to work?” 80% answered “NO!” Several authors make a connection between this concept and the women right to vote or the abolition of slavery. “If we abolished slavery, who will work? ” Only a select few had the vision of labor change.

We are now on the cusp of another revolution. And what is revolutionary in UBI is its unconditionality. With the industrial revolution came the ideas of minimum wage, fight against child labor, later social state. They all gave conditions – do A and you will be paid, supported for it. UBI, on the other hand,  is a reflection of a post-industrial revolution where fewer and fewer “hands” are needed for production. But more and more grey cells for innovation – not only in the lab but also in the structure of healthy, involved societies with little social exclusion.  This is how the leaders of the initiative in the European Union define UBI: universal, individual, unconditional, high enough to ensure an existence in dignity and participation in society.

Join our debate! Check on the official site for the EU citizens initiatives – UBI http://www.basicincome2013.eu/ubi/basic-income-a-cultural-impulse/.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Transforming Miami: Art Basel’s architecture competition, DawnTown

Art Basel Miami 2006
Image by zeug via Flickr

Global Markets spoke with Andrew Frey, creator and founder of DawnTown, Miami’s annual architecture competition. The winner will be awarded next week during Art Basel in Miami.

Global Markets: DawnTown, Miami’s annual global architectural competition, is in its third year. How has the competition grown over the past two years?

The competition receives about 100 entries every year, but its geographic diversity has grown.  For example, two years ago, two of the three winning teams were from the US, but last year the winning teams were from Australia, Bangkok, and St. Petersburg.  This means that more designers around the world have become aware of Miami’s dynamic urban context and support for creativity.  We have also received increasing financial support from the John S. & James L. Knight Foundation and the Miami Downtown Development Authority.

2. At what stage are the designs that won the previous two years – e.g., the new station for the Metro Mover?

DawnTown is an ideas competition, intended to generate never-before-seen images that convey the potential of design to enrich the built environment and thus the lives of those who live in it.  The competition topic each year is a specific existing design challenge in Miami, which helps give structure to the creative entries, and how each designer perceives the city of Miami ends up informing his or her design.

The sites selected for previous DawnTown competitions are owned by government agencies that, while they cooperated with us to varying degrees — Miami Dade Transit was especially supportive — do not have the budget and/or inclination to pursue the winning designs.  For example, the water pump station has been fixed up with the addition of windows, landscaping, and paint, but it is a far cry from Helen Pierce’s design for a pulsing sea urchin.

3. This year’s competition revolves around creating a seaplane terminal. What was the main driver in selecting this project?

The main driver for choosing as this year’s topic a seaplane terminal on Watson Island was that, more than any of the other topics nominated, it is uniquely Miami and sets up an incredibly dynamic context for designers from around the world to explore: a small airport in a downtown on the waterfront on an island next to a cruise ship terminal, served by both a bridge and a tunnel (the later is being constructed), in a city that is as the crossroads of North America, South America, Europe, and the Caribbean.

4. Do you believe you have succeeded in implementing your initial vision for DawnTown?

DawnTown has been a great success.  It has encouraged designers from around to immerse themselves in Miami and contribute their creativity to our city.  The award ceremony during Art Basel Miami Beach has drawn more people to experience downtown Miami’s renaissance, its jobs, port, and public transportation now complemented by a large residential population, restaurants, and performing arts center.  And it has raised awareness among the residents of Miami of the potential of new creative architecture.

5. How does DawnTown benefit from occurring in tandem with Art Basel?

DawnTown benefits because during that week the world’s entire cultural elite (or so it seems) are already in Miami, so we don’t have to draw them here for the award ceremony, just nudge them away from South Beach, Wynwood, Midtown, and the Design District. Those areas are fine but not the potent combination of existing urban amenities and dynamic re-invention that is downtown Miami right now.

6. Do you have plans to expand DawnTown? What are the next steps for you?

There is some momentum behind the idea of adding an annual design-build competition, similar to what MOMA and P.S.1 do, which would involve a much more modest topic but one that is actually constructed and experienced by the public.  Experiencing a structure and space is an inherently more powerful argument for the power of innovative architecture than looking at pictures. We would also like to do a small book looking back on the first three years of the competition.

7. Do you think the DawnTown concept can be rolled out to other cities? What would it take?

In my opinion one of the most exciting things about the DawnTown ideas competition is that it is incredibly cheap and replicable. The website is free, the topic instructions and background materials are put together by volunteers, the jury members are also volunteers, and the entrance fee is simply the cost to print your design.  Outreach and PR for the first year was mainly me sending lots of emails, and the recipients graciously forwarding them to more people.  And the award ceremonies have been generously donated by the host venues.  The only funds required are for the prizes and PR to help leverage the excitement of the competion.  In an era of tight budgets, if a community wants to create an event to highlight an area of revitalization and support for innovative design, I can’t imagine a more efficient use of resources than a similar competition.

Enhanced by Zemanta

A View on the World Cup from Africa

Oil & Gas consultant and a sports commentator Adebisi Osunneye writes about his soccer passion and what it means to have the World Cup in Africa. For more of his soccer reflections see: http://nigeria.worldcupblog.org

In Football, or soccer as called in the US, the FIFA World Cup which holds every 4 years is the biggest tournament world over. It kicks off on the continent of Africa, South Africa to be precise. Viewership of the past mundial shows it is the biggest sports gathering after the Olympics and some matches actually return the highest single viewership for any sports event.

So it’s a big thing taking place in …cities South Africa between the 10th of June and the 11th of July 2010.

32 countries have qualified after rigorous qualification matches within their various continents going through different formats.  The participating countries are grouped as follows:

Africa 6, Europe 13, Asia & Middle East 4, Oceania 1, North America 3 and South America 5

Group A. South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay & France

Group A involving the hosts South Africa looks a very fair group for all, with only France having an array of soccer stars so can be said to have an edge. But the French had a tough qualifying campaign, having to go through the playoffs and the controversial Thiery Henry’s handball assist that ended the journey for the Irish. The South Africans would be playing with a lot of passion and determination in front of their home fans and it would be very difficult to defeat. The team has been together for a few years now and should exhibit a solid team play but would this be enough? For Mexico who just lost a friendly to England at Wembley, they come to the mundial with a lot of enthusiasm. I am sure their hopes lie in the fact that the team keeps improving per time, it’s a blend of old and youth and do understand themselves very well.  Uruguay would find it extremely tough coming out of this group even with their captain the former Manchester United player, Diego Forlan who is a very technical and clinical finisher. Would he be enough to motivate his colleagues? Time will tell


France and Mexico

Group B. Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Republic (South Korea) & Greece

I am a bit biased here as a Nigerian as I want my country to advance to the next round although preparation can be said to be non-existent in the fact that the ‘new’ manager has just about 3 weeks to tinker with the team before the first match. The good side however is the fact that he has retained the bulk of the team he met on ground which means he would only need to instill his own tactics and way of play within a group that already understand each other. All the team needs is a draw in the first game against Argentina. Talking about Argentina, they are surely clear favorites; anyway they are used to being classified as such. With the current world footballer of the year Lionel Messi, Milito of newly crowned European Champions League winners Inter Milan, Liverpool’s Mascerano, Tevez, Real Madrid’s slippery Higuian and a host of other world class talents, you will be kidding yourself to dismiss them in one go. But anything is possible in football; they lost out in the first round in 2002 despite parading the likes of Batistuta, a legend in Florence. These boys of a football great Maradona are in tip top shape and are sure ready to thrash opponents but would this happen? Where would I place Greece and South Korea but in a high place of respect as both teams are very technical and disciplined. The Greeks showed their team work stuff to win the European championships 2004 surprising all and sundry and they still have the same Manager today. For the South Koreans, they will rely on their quick and direct play and are being led by J Sung Park, a darling at Old Traford, Manchester.


Argentina and Nigeria

Group C. England, USA, Algeria & Slovenia

It is only the second place up for grabs in this group as England are having the best shot at winning the World Cup since 1990 semi-finals placing. They come in with a very balanced team in all departments having a very solid spine. They have Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard /Frank Lampard, John Terry/Rio Ferdinand and David James or Robert Green. The USA has an effective team that showed what they can do at the last FIFA Confederations Cup defeating the favorites Spain. I actually do not see the Algerians coming up with anything spectacular apart from being decent. For the Slovenians they will need all the luck in the world.


England and USA

Group D. Germany, Australia, Serbia & Ghana

Another group where I do not expect any surprise, because I don’t think the Australians nor do I think the Ghanaians have what it takes to go past Germany and Serbia.  Ghana just announced that their biggest talent in a decade, Chelsea’s Micheal Essien would be missing; this will cost them a lot. Australia have been very decent and disciplined of late and this present crop are the ones to do it except that they face an ever dedicated German machine and enthusiastic Serbians


Germany and Serbia

Group E. Netherlands, Denmark, Japan & Cameroon

This is a group with highly technical footballing countries, playing the Scandinavians is never easy. They are all known for their organizational abilities. But the Danish guys will find it tough with Cameroon and Japan. The Japanese are enjoying a very settled team with great ambitions and it is sure they are ready to pounce on any opportunity offered by fellow Group E rivals. With a team filled with Sniejder, Ajen Robben, De Jong are ever so total in their display, it would be Netherlands fault if they do not qualify from this group. Cameroon have a huge task ahead of them. They are fond of featuring veterans and this may be their undoing, except they don’t would they make it to the second round. Do I stick out my neck for the Japanese, yes I do. Why? They have had a decent run in and their local league has really stabilized to give them a lot of confidence coming into this World Cup. Or maybe I just want some surprises to spice up the competition


Netherlands and Japan

Group F. Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand & Slovakia

Looks the defending Champions are not in the league they were 4 years ago as most of their players are not exhibiting the standards they are known for likewise coming together as a National side has not shown anything different. It’s a plus they have a relatively okay group with no disrespect to other members of this group. The Paraguayans started the South American qualifiers on a high tempo but they seem to be struggling at the crucial time. Slovakia did the giant killing on Russia so must be very confident but the New Zealanders I think are just very happy to be here.


Italy and Slovakia

Group G. Brazil, DPR Korea, Cote D’Voire & Portugal

Toughest call for me, this group would be extremely close looking at the quality of stars represented here. The DPR Korea should be prepared to enjoy themselves out there as the other three countries would look at their match ups as possibilities of taking goals advantage but I warn do not take any country for granted. Brazil, the ‘biggest’ nation in the world of football would find it tough, have never failed to advance as long as I can remember but should not be thinking of picking all the points as usual. Cote D Voire are tipped as the best African Nation going into this tournament but the appointment of sacked former England and Mexico manager, the Swede Goran Ericsson has put doubt in a lot of peoples minds. Ronaldo in the Portuguese side is a huge asset but have they got it right as a team? Would they not show boat having a lot of skillful players? This is tough to call. Brazil remain tournament favorites


Brazil and Cote D Voire

Group H. Spain, Chile, Switzerland & Honduras

The European champions piggy bank on the form of the Spanish club side Barcelona to display one of the best football styles ever played in the game. They are the 3rd of the favorites up there with England and Brazil in no particular order. They need Xavi Hernandez, Fernando Torres and Andre Iniesta to be fit and going. I expect a comfortable group matches for them and do expect Honduras to spring a surprise on Chile and Switzerland. The Swiss are always very effective and could pose a challenge. For the Chileans they hardly ever rise to their potential and remain in the shadow of other top South American countries. Would they prove themselves capable this time?


Spain and Honduras

You just have to be part of this excitement wave that will hold over 40% of the world’s population a month long. For product sponsors this is definitely time to show case your brand to the largest audience possible.

And for fans following their dear nations and preferences, I advise we guard our hearts as anything is possible.



Author Megha Bahree travels extensively through India reporting on the country’s transformation from a traditional agrarian economy to an industrial one. She is currently a Staff Writer at Forbes magazine, and blogs at megha.me.

India is the world’s seventh largest consumer of electricity and is set to overtake countries like Canada and Germany as its economy grows. Last year GDP grew 6.5%, the 13th fastest in the world according to the CIA factbook. But this growth comes at a cost. Take for example, the village of Khamaria in the state of Chhattisgarh in eastern India.

On the one hand are villagers who only know an agrarian way of life, and on the other is Jindal Steel & Power, one of India’s luminary companies, which, through its steel plant, coalmines and a 1000MW thermal power plant is feeding the country’s energy and industrial demands. Naveen Jindal, the company’s executive chairman and a Member of Parliament, is adding on a $2.4 billion, 2400MW coal-fired power plant in the same region. (His mother, Savitri, chairs the O.P. Jindal group and is ranked the 44th richest billionaire by Forbes with an estimated net worth of $12.2 billion.)

While the Jindals rake in their billions, I saw firsthand the devastation wreaked on the area. Driving through this thickly forested area, the green gives way to black – the soot on the leaves and shrubs is like rank topsoil.

Residents say that when they voiced their protest in a sanctioned public forum, they were beaten by police; some hospitalized.

Two farmers I spoke with – Krishna Lal Sao and Raghunath Choudhary – collectively lost 7.5 acres that was the source of their livelihood for the expansion of this power plant. Years of filing petitions with the courts or the police have resulted in nothing but heartache. Sao has now taken a loan and started a stationery store to send his four kids to school while Choudhary, who is forced to farm someone else’s land, blames both the suicide of his younger son and his wife’s recent fatal heart attack on stressful circumstances caused by Jindal. Read More »


MASISA: Focused on Sustainability in Latin America

by Roberto Salas, GrupoNueva’s Chief Executive Office and General Manager of MASISA

Nowadays, sustainability in the business environment must be seen as an opportunity for companies. These companies must get involved inside the economic, social and environmental trends offering opportunities through:

  • Business management innovation and efficiency.
  • Commitment and participation inside the social issues that affect our end markets.
  • Implement a responsible environmental management as part of the the business strategy

GrupoNueva is an investment holding company, specialized in the business of forestry and wood derivatives, creating sustainable value for its stakeholders through its triple bottom line approach.

GrupoNueva is the controlling shareholder of the multinational corporation Masisa S.A., one of the leading companies in Latin America in the wood boards for furniture and interior architecture business, who has 12 industrial complexes in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Mexico, and more than 242 thousand hectares of planted forest in the region.

MASISA is committed to managing its business in a sustainable way, incorporating social and environmental variables as an integral part of its business strategy. The Company’s strong commitment to sustainable development has led to its market differentiation due to its responsible management of social and environmental issues.

External certifications and the use of the Sustainability Scorecard (SSC), which is the application of the Balanced Scorecard tool to the Triple Bottom Line approach, enable us to manage and systematically integrate to the business strategy the social and environmental issues.

MASISA’s road to leadership is the path it follows to be leader of sustainable development in the region. The path starts with the “basic management level,” i.e., make sure that the Company complies with legislation in the countries where it operates and therefore obtain government authorization to operate, but more important, Masisa secures and maintains a social license to operate based on dialogue and consultation with its stakeholders, in consistency with its Triple Bottom line culture. Read More »


A Christian Perspective on Global Warming

I’ve been writing a book examining climate change and energy policy from a Christian perspective. The book, Jesus Wants US to Stop Global Warming, relates climate and energy issues to values Christian Americans hold dear: increased national security, personal and national financial prosperity, America’s continued supremacy as a global superpower, and, of course, the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Whether you believe global warming is happening or not, global warming solutions make sense.  The developed world is transitioning from a carbon-fuel economy towards a renewable-energy economy.  Consumer preferences, the inevitable regulation of CO2, the innovation of efficiency technologies, and the production of cheap renewable energy are all fueling this transition.  As always, firms and industries willing and able to adapt to the changing economic environment will remain competitive; firms and industries unable or unwilling to adapt will fold.

While global warming is often the focal point of energy and environmental politics, peak oil is startlingly left out of the conversation.  Peak oil scares me because it’s deleterious effects will be felt in my lifetime.  Oil industry executives, petro-geologists, and Saudi Princes agree: The world’s supply of cheap oil is running out. Sometime in the next two decades (if not already), world oil production will begin a slow, steady, and terminal decline.  Some predict demand will surpass supply as early as 2015.  When this happens, the dominos will begin to fall.

Our complete dependence on an uninterrupted supply of cheap oil cannot be overstated.   Our food supply is grown with petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, planted and harvested with heavy machinery, and then transported thousands of miles in trucks.  Rising oil prices mean rising food prices.  Any extended interruption in the supply of oil means an interruption in the food supply.  Since grocery stores turn over their inventory every three days, we are—as one commentator stated—“nine meals from anarchy.” Read More »


Supporting Women’s Traditions Via Theater

Virlana Tkacz writes:

Theatre makes the past present, alive at the moment that you are witnessing it. The characters as well as the texts, poems and songs breathe with new life, and so a new future opens up for them. I am interested in creating theatre that is rooted in little-known or appreciated cultures of the East, giving voice to them. I have made theatre pieces about a modernist theatre in Kyiv in the 1920s, ancient Siberian ghost stories and Kyrgyz epics. Each of these theatre pieces opened a new world for me, the other artists involved and our audiences.

I am the artistic director of Yara Arts Group, a resident company at La MaMa Experimental Theatre in the East Village in New York. We create original theatre pieces in rehearsal by bringing together fragments of songs, stories and chants. At the core of every piece is a poem that sets the piece in motion. Since 1990 we have created 20 original theatre pieces that have premiered in New York, and are usually collaborations with artists from the other side of the world. Our productions feature traditional music, but are essentially contemporary pieces. Performed in a combination of languages, they are completely accessible to American audiences.

The first time I recorded songs in villages was in the Aga Buryat Region of Siberia. I soon learned that the older women in a community are usually the best source of songs, stories and knowledge about a traditional society. We created such pieces as “Flight of the White Bird” based on songs we heard from grandmothers in Aga, while “Circle” was based on songs and stories from the Ust-Orda Buryat Region on the other side of Lake Baikal.

Read More »