In the light of recent rumblings of Indonesia's Mount Merapi, it is sobering to think that 9% (455 million people) of the world's population live within 100 km of an historically active volcano. Who knew? Apparently, Christopher Small (Columbia University) and Terry Naumann (University of Alaska). In their 2002 paper, entitled Global Distribution of Human Population and Recent Volcanism, they say that "volcanoes tend to be population-magnets, which isn't news to volcanologists, of course. Soils around volcanoes are nutrient-rich, and are periodically resurfaced by recurrent eruptions and ashfalls". They go on to point out that "if a volcano is quiescent for anything approaching a generation, people tend to think that a catastrophic event probably won't happen to them".
While Dave Donaldson's web-diary of his time with 'Hope International' ("People who want to help regardless of ability") takes a funny idea (a satirical diary of an aid worker) and flogs it to death, it remains an irreverent, biting, and, occasionally hilarious caricature of the aid world. While I can't in good conscience recommend it for those of us who really only have 15 minutes, for people with some time to kill, it is pretty funny.
A lot of us spend a LOT of our time in meetings – some more productive than others! I, for one, often 'multi-task' in meetings, even though I know that nothing then gets 100% of my attention and this is inefficient. This article is clearly written by someone who has experienced a lot of the same pain and has some useful suggestions for how all of us could get more out of the time that we sit in meetings. The link will take you to the article.
Filed under: Book reviews, Development theory, If you have time for longer reading!
Amartya Sen is a leading political economist who was influential in designing the UNDP Human Development Index and in recent reform of World Bank practices. Here, he tries his hand at answering the question 'What is Development?'
Sen presents a compelling alternative to the dichotomies of ruthless free-marketism or stifling authoritarianism. He argues, somewhat provocatively, but for the most part convincingly, that 'capabilities' (substantive human freedoms like open dialogue, civil freedoms and political liberties) are both the results and definition of sustainable development, and the necessary building blocks of it. Continue reading
The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article called "It's all about me: Why e-mails are so easily misunderstood", talking about the perils of email as a tool for long distance communication. Surprise surprise, email does not convey all of the emotional content of communication, and can lead to unnecessary hostility and misunderstanding.
The good news is that research shows that rapport creates a 'buffer of good regard', so that, if you know someone, even a little, you will be less likely to assume the worst. Continue reading
Filed under: Book reviews, Fiction, Humour, If you have time for longer reading!
Helen Fielding's first novel (she is best known for Bridget Jones's Diary) will (rightfully) never win any literary prizes, but, for a lighthearted read that gives a relatively well researched and accurate depiction of the life of an aid-worker (with some obvious embellishments) it's not too bad. It's a fun, light airplane read that might be a good present for curious family members who want to know 'what exactly is it that you do?'