the damage

So, another Christmas come and gone eh! We had a lovely time- lots of food, laughter and remote control helicopter flying. I hope you had a lovely one.
Just to add a negative spin on any Christmas cheer still bubbling around, think on these facts:
In the UK alone-
  • 19 million people shopped on Christmas Eve, spending £89 million an hour as the day's shopping bill reached £2.14 billion
  • £10 billion is the average amount borrowed across Britain at Christmas to foot the bill
  • Some 79 per cent of Brits will receive presents they do not like or want
  • Food wasted in the UK increases by a massive 80% during the Christmas period
  • 3 million tonnes of waste are dumped in the UK over Christmas
Eek, these are some ugly figures! The socio-economic and environmental consequences of the way we do Christmas are devastating! It is such a shame that we can live all year in relatively ethical ways and then we hit Christmas and our imagination/passion dries up completely. We talk about a more loving, just, peaceful Christmas but then still let that consumerist monster rip when crunch time comes. Glyn Harries has done an awesome poem over on his blog- 23rd Dec- that really portrays well our passion for goodness but our all consuming desire for plastic crap too.

So the challenge is- how do we do Christmas better in 2008? While it is all still in our minds. Feel free to share an idea. These are three inspiring things from this year:

This year my friend got hold of some recycled material and sewed stockings for all her friends, one friend wrapped all her pressies in junk mail and Tim brought home our Christmas tree from outside of a school at the end of the term. (He had to get out his pocket knife and just saw off 2 metres off the top as it was a whopper. Heehee.)


More Peace please

Peace on earth, a nice Christmas Card Greeting, typically with a dove and some holly scattered around the embossed words. Is it possible? Sometimes I despair with Bono when I hear him sing:

Jesus can you take the time
To throw a drowning man a line
Peace on earth

To tell the ones who hear no sound
Whose sons are living in the ground
Peace on earth

Jesus in the song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on earth

Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history wont rhyme
So whats it worth...

Peace on Earth.

If we scan the earth at this moment in time, all is not peaceful. In fact, I heard yesterday that there has already been more wars this century then in the last. Yet we still bandy "peace on earth" slogans about. In this intense article Ron Snider blows all Christian Just War ideas out of the water and articulates why he thinks Christian pacifists can bring peace about. I love his vision of 10000 trained and praying Peace Makers entering conflict zones.

Anyway, rant, rant. I'm praying this Christmas for Peace on Earth, in the hearts and minds of victims and perpetrators, in our local spaces and across the globe. I'm praying that Ron's vision will get given legs, so that Bono's desperate lyrics become history.



Nestle Kills Babies

was the title of a pamphlet put out in the seventies when knowledge about the aggressive marketing of baby formula milk by companies such as Nestle was forcing a decline in breast feeding, with an impact of upping the infant mortality rate by 3 times. The horrendous things is that these companies are still doing exactly the same thing, with even more dire results. A report from this year by Save the Children suggests that 3,800 babies die A DAY because they are bottle fed and not breast fed. There is a good Guardian article here, about the impact of this figure on the worlds goal to reduce infant mortality by half by 2015. Not gonna happen unless Nestle and co buck up.
I feel so blessed today. It is my last day of term at LSE, and I am just pulling my essays together. One is on the above topic- the impact of transnational corporations on child rights- and another is on gender equality. How amazing is it, that this is the stuff I am passionate about, and I get to do it?
In a lecture this morning we were reminded about a quote from one of LSE's founders, George Bernard Shaw. Its a goodie:
"Some see things as they are and ask "Why?" others dream things as they never were and ask "Why not?" "
It is too easy to be one of the first, but I pray we will be the dreamers.


there IS something wrong with it...

There are lots of words in bold today. That is a sure sign of an angry post. Please don't read on if you were wanting to feel happy and nice and burden free.

The Guardian today, in an article entitled "if I had a little money..." reported the new £35,000 cocktail available from nightclub Movida. Yep, that is the right amount of 0's. Yep, that is more than double the salary recieved by somone on the UK's minium wage. Yep that is enough to build a school, provide equipment and teachers for several villages for several years in a developing nation. My heart is thumping with rage. It is revolting that people have such a ludicrous amount of money that they could spend that much on one glass of alchohol.
The UK has been quite alright on poverty issues over the last decade, policy papers have been spewed out at a rate of knots and globally poverty is being taken quite seriously- in theory at least if not in practice- what with the MDG's being so high profile and all. But it is as if we are so poor focused that we have left the super wealthy to just go full steam ahead, as if it doesn't impact society at all, as if everyone has succumbed to a trickle down theory. Well, it doesn't trickle down and it does impact society! Evidence clearly shows that it is the gap that matters, not how poor the poor are or how rich the rich are even, but how wide the chasm between them is. The bigger the gap the great the consequences- education, health, crime, cohesion and inclusion all suffer when inequality is left to fester.
Share The Worlds Resources- put it well: "greater inequality fuels crime, corrodes democracy, divides our cities, prices people out of housing, skews the economy, is an engine of social apartheid, heightens ethnic tensions, is a barrier to opportunity and stifles social mobility"
It is not okay that the greedy (I don't even want to call them the rich any more. They are not rich in anything but greed) sit and pour life-saving resources down their fake tanned crystal glad necks while a third of this countrys children have limited access to health care, nutrition, clothing and shelter. It is not okay that the greedy earn money on interest while they sleep when 2 roads down a homeless woman can't sleep for fear of being knifed. It is not okay that in the world of the greedy money rushes down the drain like water when in the same world one child dies every 7 seconds because they do not have clean water.
I have no vision today, no solutions, just a mind filled with madness and a stomach full of rage. It is not okay and there is something wrong with it.


A little snuggle...

I am often heard, several times a month, expounding the benefits of hugging. 7 a day is the ticket, apparently, for maximum sense of well-being. So bring on the hug, friends and family come hither! That is, those of us who have people to hug... too many people literally go years without someone to touch them, let alone hug them. Therefore, I love to hug.
Unbenownst to me was this chap who, lonely, burdened with trouble and empathy for others who were feeling this way, pulled out a marker and a bit of cardboard and scrawled "Free Hugs." He says for a while the whole street ignored him but then someone "stopped, tapped me on the shoulder and told me how her dog had just died that morning. How that morning had been the one year anniversary of her only daughter dying in a car accident. How what she needed now, when she felt most alone in the world, was a hug." And there was he and thus began his Free Hugs Campaign.
(I know, I know, too many videos. A sure indicator of a laaazzy blogger. Wa, wa, waahhhh. But I love this one! So fabulous!)
On hugs for the lonely...Red Cross in Sweden have just launced their "Hugs for the Lonely" campaign, a pre- Christmas depression weapon. It sounds nice.. but the hugs cost! Yep, hard cash. Hmm... It sounds like the perfect "Social Enterprise" model... something I'm not completley convinced about (I think thats just my cyncial mind.) I could be convinced though. What are your thoughts on market based philanthropy?


Diamonds from Sierra Leone

So, a bit old, and a bit gangster, but Kanye Wests video about conflict diamonds is a pretty potent watch.

See, a part of me sayin' keep shinin',
How? when I know of the blood diamonds
Though it's thousands of miles away
Sierra Leone connect to what we go through today
Over here, its a drug trade, we die from drugs
Over there, they die from what we buy from drugs
The diamonds, the chains, the bracelets, the charmses
I thought my Jesus Piece was so harmless'til I seen a picture of a shorty armless
And here's the conflict
It's in a black person's soul to rock that gold
Spend ya whole life tryna get that iceOn a polo rugby it look so nice
How could somethin' so wrong make me feel so right, right?


Talk is cheap...

but will cost the earth if that is all that is done.
Potentially the next few days could be host to some of the most important conversations had regarding world poverty this year. For tomorrow begins the UN conference on Climate Change where world leaders are coming together in Bali to put legs on the Kyoto agreement. We all know that there has been a lot of talk re. the climate, but hopefully in the next two weeks we'll see some action. If so, we can begin to imagine a future where those in the developing world are able to live peacefully, work effectively and not (literally) die by the thousands because of the effects of climate change. For, for them, at the moment the prospects- and the present- is bleak indeed.
I say some of the most important conversations, because just as important as the leaders dialogue are the conversations held in the home about how to recycle more, consume less, cycle to work, just as important as the decision made in the staff meeting to go easy on the AC and printing, just as important as children being taught to appreciate home made gifts rather that plastic tack.
Presidents and Prime MInisters can make all the calls they want to hinder the coming climate catastrophe but unless a huge amount of the public make personal changes we are not going to get anywhere.
So for the UN conference I pray that God will give wisdom, courage and insight to the leaders their. That a space will be created their for all nations speakers to participate- not just the swanky 8. That the lobbying groups and parties will have a profound impact. And that this will be a momentous turn for the better in the globes history.
I also pray that at the same time "normal" people will be challenged to make change, will have the courage to make some hard calls, that we will all be made more passionate about the climate challenge before us, for the sake of Gods people in poverty and Gods beautiful earth.