Africa: Land of Hope and Exploitation

September 9, 2008

The residents of the Magenge Mapya Charcoal Camp in Tanzania face an uncertain future — the trees they rely on to make charcoal are being cut down to plant oil-producing plants for biofuels

Roughly a century ago, the Ottoman Empire was considered “the sick man of Europe” because of its poor economy, backwardness, and misrule. Today, the continent of Africa and in particular the sub-Saharan part could rightfully be considered the sick man of the world. Disastrous economics, shoddy rule, violent wars, and the plague of HIV have left a once promising continent the failure of the world.

Decade after decade of foreign aid have not been able to lift Africa out of its mire. Even the so-called “benevolence” of wealthier states has left a situation best described in dependency theory as: “the way in which resources flow from a “periphery” of poor and underdeveloped states to a “core” of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former”. This exploitation continues today as Africa is now being utilized for the sake of biofuel production at the expense of locals. Der Spiegel reports about this new exploitation in Green Gold Rush: Africa becoming a biofuel battleground. An excerpt: Read the rest of this entry »

Human Evolution is Speeding Up

July 25, 2008

DNA strand

Genetic research is telling us that human evolution is proceeding at a much faster pace than previously thought

While some are still mired in the debate about evolution actually being real, scientists continue to find the clues that are solving some of the most elementary mysteries of who we are as humans and where we’re going.  Nancy Shute in US World News Report tells us that human evolution is proceeding at a faster pace than any time in our short history. A few excerpts from this excellent article:

Until recently, anthropologists thought that human evolution had slowed down. But last December, Hawks reported that it has actually accelerated 100-fold in the past 5,000 to 10,000 years. He figured that out by comparing chunks of DNA among 269 people from around the world. Over time, DNA accumulates random mutations, just as the front of a white T-shirt tends to accumulate spots. The bigger the chunks of DNA without random spots, the more recently it had been minted. Using this system, Hawks concluded that recent genetic changes account for about 7 percent of the human genome. Much of the increase, he says, has been fueled by the growth of the world’s population, which has expanded by a factor of 1,000 over the past 10,000 years. Having more people increases the odds of mutations.

At the same time, the human genome has been scrambling to adapt to a rapidly changing world—11,000 years ago, nobody farmed, nobody milked domesticated animals, and nobody lived in a city. People with a mutation that aided survival were more likely to thrive, reproduce, and pass that mutation along to offspring. For example, the capacity to digest lactose, the sugar in milk, has become common only over the past 3,000 years. Now, about 95 percent of the people in northern Germany have the mutation, which also popped up independently among the Masai in Africa and the Lapps in Finland. Hawks says: “This is really rapid evolution.”

Mutations serve as triggers for change. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama’s diversity reflects America’s own growing diversity

July 23, 2008

Barack Obama

Various places around the world can lay claim to Obama

Whether or not you support the changes in America’s population through immigration legal or illegal, you cannot deny that it certainly is a much different country from what it was one or two generations ago. Obama is symbolic of this change in that he’s a black man (not wholly) and a child of an immigrant. The thought of such a person making it to the final round of presidential elections only 10 years ago would have been difficult.

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