The Practical Radical

Usahidi – Mapping the world one SMS at a time

September 1, 2010
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Usahidi - Mapping the world one SMS at a time

I have been struggling to get my head around Usahidi, the Swahili for “witness” or “testimony.”

I knew it was created during the post-election violence in Kenya in early 2008. I had many friends who went through that terrible time, and felt equally horrified and powerless.

(more…)


Humor in Dark and Digital Times – A Video Mashup

June 9, 2010
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Dark or black humor has always been fascinating to me – finding something funny in dismal times clearly shows how resilient humanity can be.

My introduction to black humor was Monty Python, and more specifically the movie the Holy Grail. Two of my favorites are Black Knight and Bring out Your Dead.

With the digital age and youtube we now don’t have to wait for geniuses such as Python to write and produce videos and get them to TV, the movies or VHS. Now with little production time and no cost, videos reflect what is happening now, and can have direct and immediate impact.

One example of this real-time dark humor is in regards to the spill in the gulf. A great video was done by John Clarke and Brian Dawe of the 7.30 Report (Australia) which skewers the duplicity of BP.

On a different (musical) note demonstrating the use of humor in dark times, is a music video done by the Best Party from Reykjavik, Iceland to Tina Turners song “Simply the Best”.

The Best Party is like the Rhino Party and other spoof parties who are created as a protest to the traditional parties in the political system – this party was created due to the massive lack of confidence in government after the country went bankrupt. What is ironic is that in this case the Best Party,  whose comedian leader campaigned on clean politics, free towels in city swimming pools and a polar bear for the zoo, took over 30 percent of the vote and won six seats on the 15-seat city council. Humor in dark times trumps.

Dark humor is an effective tool, and yet in the end Python gets it right.


Tragedy in Pictures

May 31, 2010
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Photo: Infrogmation

AP Photo

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

AP Photo/BP PLC

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Photo: Infrogmation

Image: Zero-lives

Photo: ctberney

and who other than God can solve this …

Photo: AP/Gerald Herbert

Sorry Mr. Obama, not this time.


Addiction leads to decades long hangover …

May 28, 2010
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I am getting quite nauseous knowing our addiction to the black liquor is destroying the environment and economy of the gulf coast states. What makes it worse is that I feel I am watching the disaster in slow motion, with oil slowly and inexorably making its way onshore, while we watch grainy low definition movies of the mile deep oil well  belching out its black death.

So, as we can’t seem to do much but watch, what better time to reflect on some of the myths we hold regarding our addiction to gas as it relates to our cars.  The following are six gas mileage myths (stop doing them and nagging your husband/wife about them) and some solutions (that if 100,000,000 of us started doing something would change).

Remember what Margaret Mead says – “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” (yeah, I’m not believing that much right now either .. )

Myths

  • It takes more fuel to start a vehicle than it does to let it idle.
    Idling uses a quarter to a half-gallon of fuel in an hour, costing you one to two cents a minute. So, turn off the car when stopped for more than a few minutes.
  • Vehicles need to be warmed up before they’re driven.
    Maybe true back in the old days, no longer.
  • Old cars have bad fuel economy.
    A well-maintained car will have like-new mileage.
  • A clean airfilter makes a car run more efficiently.
    If you have a car from the 70s, maybe. Now, no.
  • That expensive additive s%^t you put in your gas helps.
    Probably not, you might feel better, but no. Both the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Reports have weighed in on this. There are no top-secret 100-mpg add-ons out there.
  • Using premium fuel improves fuel economy.
    Nope. Use only if filthy rich.

and this one is for Lee-Anne as we disagree on this all the time …

  • Having your windows down while having the air conditioning effects gas mileage.
    NONONONONONO. Two studies by Consumer Report and some group called Edmunds.com  just say no, nothing really even measurable. (I win, the windows are staying down air-conditioned jacked).
So, some things you can do …
  • inflate your tires
  • don’t leave tons of s$%t in your car, especially bags of sand, bricks, cement, large mammals, etc.
  • use cruise control – it works
  • and, drive the speed limit

Thanks to yahoo.com, edmunds.com, consumer report, and my personal angst for making this happen. Have a nice day.


An ounce of humor prepares us for decades of pain … BP and Twitter #bpcares

May 26, 2010
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A fake British Petroleum twitter account gives us the best analysis of what is going on. Here are some example tweets …

Proud to announce that BP will be sponsoring the New Orleans Blues Festival this summer w/ special tribute to Muddy Waters.

Think about it this way, the ocean is like rootbeer and oil is like ice cream. We just made America a giant rootbeer float!

The good news: Mermaids are real. The bad news: They are now extinct.

The ocean looks just a bit slimmer today. Dressing it in black really did the trick!

remember … #bpcares


The U.S. welcomes the world to their Tea Party

May 24, 2010
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With the selection of tea partier Rand Paul as Senate nominee in Kentucky, and his “my government is no government” views, the world will now be engaged in the 24/7 news cycle discussion on whether we want to be invited.

So, if we are invited as Canadians or Kenyans or Dutch or whatever nationality, the question for me is, what type of tea is being served (or id Koolaid … but that’s another blog), and do we want it? The tea that Rand Paul and the Tea Party is serving is a re-brew of something I think Americans thought they had moved on from 50 years ago, and it has to do with Paul’s repudiation of parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In short, the Civil Rights Act required the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal. The issue for Paul is part of the Act which states that All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.

Rachel Maddow from MSNBC pressed Paul on whether private business had the right to refuse to serve African-Americans, Paul replied, “Yes.” You can watch the full interview here and here. Paul is also now on record saying  that he doesn’t like Obama putting his “boot heel on the throat of BP” because “it sounds un-American – his criticism of business.”

We don’t need to be overburdened by regulation, but when we are dealing with something as basic as not banning people from places due to their race , or as important as assuring that an already catastrophic environmental disaster and its costs be taken care of, then government IS what represents our collective will and action, not corporations.


Large Air Spill At Wind Farm. No Threats Reported. Some Claim To Enjoy The Breeze. (PICTURE)

May 4, 2010
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joke = enough said.


The Pradical Blog: For 7 Generations .. or at least until the next disaster

May 2, 2010
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It never ceases to amaze me how we work to implement long-term planning, slowly moving step by step forward, yet seemingly for an instant we  let our eye off the ball and end up four steps back.

There is a litany of backwards “steps” in the last few months.

  1. The oil spill disaster off the Atlantic Coast. Ironically, it was just over a month ago that Obama opened up the coast for off shore oil drilling.
  2. At Copenhagen we were meant to sign a historic agreement that would change how the world did business regarding carbon emissions. What we ended up with is the seeming undermining of a global concensus that climate change exists.
  3. And, the most potentially disastrous kick to longterm sustainability, is our embarkation on a new nuclear age, with expanded use of “safe” nuclear energy.

I remember 20 years ago at an EYA conference watching David Suzuki announce that the 90’s was the “turnaround decade”. Today he bemoans that “we’re still fighting the battles. The direction we’re heading is catastrophic. This is not going to be easy. But the important thing is to get started.”

What sadly seems to move us forward is disasters such as what is happening in the Atlantic; but waiting for disaster is not a sustainable strategy. Perhaps we need to take a page from the youth community, and look at the actions they take to “meaningfully” engage.

Based on a youth engagement model developed by the Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, I propose four principles of positive sustainability engagement that could be undertaken by sustainability groups:

PRINCIPLES TO SUPPORT MEANINGFUL ENGAGEMENT IN SUSTAINABILITY
1. People Centred: Organizations respond to people’s diverse talents, skills, & interests in regards to sustainability; build on their strengths by identifying what  they do well in the area of sustainability & develop those skills. Feature sustainability leadership & voices
2. Knowledge Centred: Creating opportunities that show people that learning is a reason to get involved. Opportunities that are clearly “about” something, e.g. community service as a way to sustainability; provide activities that deliberately teach a number of lessons & build a range of sustainability concepts and skills; & provide an opportunity for people to connect with a wide array of others undertaking similar work.
3. Assessment Centred: People need opportunities for ongoing feedback, peer reviews, & self-reflection to know how they are doing & how they can do better next time.
4. Care Centred: Effective organizations provide family-like environments where people can feel safe & build trusting relationships.

The radical nature of this model, rough as it is, is to refocus our sustainability work on the process – i.e the people – versus the product – i.e. the environment. Disasters will still happen – people made and natural – but perhaps this way we will be more prepared for them, and in then end our environment will improve. That to me is the basis of sustainability.


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    Practical things that make me radical

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