Greed Will be the Death of Us

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Picture courtesy of http://www.drawntonature.co.uk submitted by kjhayler

I am lucky enough to have grown up in a place where I was able to be close to nature and bare witness to some of the most remarkable animals on our planet.

I consider myself honoured to have been close to elephants, been charged by a rhino, stood eye to eye with a water buffalo, watched a pride of lions devour its kill. I’ve stroked a cheetah, albeit a baby one. I have listened to the hyena giggling outside our tent in the dead of night.

I’ve taken pictures of the cutest jackal (i never knew they were so small) and been scared witless by a puff adder crawling in our garden. One of the joys of living in Africa is being on the doorstep of some of the most spectacular game and natural beauty on the globe. Anyone that lives there knows it, anyone who visits it, knows it, and anyone that’s seen pictures of it knows it.

But this is the scary thing to me. The idea and thought that one day soon, all I will be able to look at to recall the magnificent creatures that I was once able to stand and watch roaming free, alive and wild is a picture like the one above, scares the hell out of me.

12 animals, slaughtered for nothing more than an ivory tusk by a gang of professional poachers???

When the hell did poaching become a professional occupation? In Africa poaching has always been a serious issue. Mainly due to its vast size and poverty stricken people. Give a man an opportunity to feed his family for a year without hassle and you have a powerful motivator in your hands to inspire anyone to commit the most heinous of crimes against our natural world.

The latest outrage to have made the press in a big way over here is an attack in Tsavo National Park in Kenya. A place where once over 30,000 elephants roamed free and wild, a place where now concern is so critical that a government is considering the formation of a national army to fight against poaching gangs. So is this the launch of an International war on Poaching?

The crazy thing is that we living in the Western world get outraged as we see these things happening around the world, yet 50 years ago, it was us doing similar things in the pursuit of an ivory trinket to adorn our mantle or line our necks. Furs, skins, heads, teeth, body parts. You name it, we’ve wanted it, pursued it, taken as we please. Even I am guilty of this. Leather jackets hanging in my cupboard. An ivory handled letter opener on my desk. Think about it, nearly everyone of us are in some way guilty of it.

Now as another part of our world comes into its time of wealth and prosperity, all those things that we enjoyed at the height of our time at the top, is now being craved by a whole new generation of people willing to pay the price to have the status symbols of success and power. And only now are we outraged by the senseless killing! Cites? An international treaty on the trade of endangered species? Hell it is a treaty without muscle and one that fails to go far enough to secure and ensure the safety of what little natural beauty this world of ours has left.

It is the incessant greed of mankind that will be the ultimate downfall of this planet. We won’t stop wanting what others around us have, until there is nothing left to want, and then even more. If is not the tusk of a Rhino to enhance our sexual performance then it will be the hide of some poor beast to line our boots and make our hand bags look pretty.

Of all the things that I miss from Africa, the outdoor beauty of the natural world is the biggest on my mind. I cherish the moments I’ve spent on safari, camping, exploring the vast open savannah plains. My heart cries out at the senseless killing of such a treasure trove of beauty, yet I know deep down it will not stop. One day, very possibly even in my lifetime, I will not be able to dream of returning to see and explore the beauty I remember from my childhood, and that my friends is criminal. If anyone has the right to expect to be left in peace and allowed to prosper and multiply it is the animals that do nothing other than to enhance and give great wealth to our natural world.

Woe are we, for we all have blood on our hands.

Thought for today – “Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.” – Socrates

Song for today – Caribbean Blue by Enya

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Africa Smiles

Africa smiled a little when you left.
“We know you,” Africa said, “We have seen and watched you. We can learn to live without you, But we know we needn’t yet.”
And Africa smiled a little when you left.
“You cannot leave Africa,” Africa said. … … … …
“It is always with you,there inside your head. Our rivers run in currents, in the swirl of your thumbprints; Our drumbeats, counting out your pulse; Our coastline, The silhouette of your soul.”
So Africa smiled a little when you left.
“We are in you,” Africa said. “You have not left us, yet.”

I was sent this the other day by a friend I used to go to school with. It really touched me because it is sooo true. Africa will always be alive within me, and I’ll always cherish my roots to Africa, and if anything this picture taken from a Dam in Zimbabwe reminds me so much of my precious home. I am a very lucky person to have spent a while on the magical Lake Kyle.

The Need for an African Royalty

It was nice to sit back this evening and enjoy a year in retrospect as much of the television programming looked back over the events of 2011. It was scary to consider that in almost the mere blink of an eye, a whole twelve months had slipped by and we were standing in the shadow of the dawn of a whole new year once more.

What was even scarier was that so much had happened in such a short space of time that it brought home a bit of a reality to me that individually we are but a small almost insignificant part of this world of 7 billion human souls. While we struggle to survive and touch the lives of people around us, in the big scheme of things there is little we can do to stop a financial crisis, war, famine, flood, earth quake, tsunami. The reality is that as humans we are actually quite vulnerable and exposed to Mother Nature.

But our humanity is what makes us who we are. It is the hope and faith that tomorrow will bring something better, and that together we can find a solution that keeps us determined to carry on.

This point was really driven home to me as I watched a program profiling the Royal Family through 2011. I could not help but think that despite some pretty horrible events through their history and the way in which they have watched almost powerless to change what is happening around us, yet theoretically they are the power of the land, it dawned on me that through the Royal Family we draw hope, inspiration and comfort.

I hear those of you that are firmly of the opinion that the Royals are a waist of time clambering to protest my last statement, but humour me for a moment and consider this.

Through turbulent times, personal grief, tragedy and great loss, the Royal Family has dutifully and honourably served our nation and its people. No one would have blamed either of the Princes for curling up and giving up after the very public humiliation of the marriage of their mom and dad, and the press crazy death of Dianna Princess of Wales.

You couldn’t blame the Queen for throwing in the towel in the face of continual harassment and criticism from the anti Royal brigade. You wouldn’t have been surprised if the whole Zara and Mike affair had blown up into an ugly personal battle.

Oh there are a multitude of things that I could point too and say that it’d make the excuse easy for the Royals to just give up, but as that oh so wonderful saying goes, “Keep Calm and Carry On” is the attitude at the very heart of the Royal Family that I admire.

They actively serve their nation in the armed forces. Travel the world promoting the UK and its interests, build bridges with International enemies, bring millions of tourists to the UK every year, and lie at the very heart of Brand Britain.

What other wedding in the history of the Planet has or will attract 3 billion viewers ever again? Who else in the UK does more to promote and showcase Brand Britain better than the Royal Family? How can we do anything but quietly respect and admire the tireless work and service that the Royal Family do for our nation?

It got me thinking. There is a lesson in the success of the Royal Family here in the UK for Africa and its Royal courts.

It is high time that African Royalty got up and started to take a leaf out of the book on the British Royals. Despite the fact that the African people have a built in loathing for the West, it is only logical to duplicate that which works to the good of a nation and its people.

If the African Royal courts took more interest in promoting Africa, and showing it off t the world, wouldn’t the world become more attracted to Africa in turn? I often go on about Brand Africa and the things that we should be seeking to implement to improve the perception of Africa in the eyes of the world.

Personally I tend to think that if the Royal Courts of the various Royal households throughout Africa took time out to develop a structured theme of Royal integration in the national and international affairs of their nation, that it would go a long way in enhancing the image of African affairs.

Why can’t an African Wedding become the next big talked about thing in the International Media spotlight? Why should African Royal courts not have a Parade of the Colour or a Jubilee celebration? Ok yes, perhaps use less Imperialistic names for the events, but if only the African people showed off their beauty, vibrancy through a bit of pomp and ceremony, maybe the world would sit up and pay a little more attention.

We all love a big celebration, none more so than the African people. So let’s take pride in our heritage and utilise the wonderful history that we have in our African Royalty to attract attention to African issues and events. Let us use the Royalty of Africa to drive tourism and trade. Let’s make use of the respect that Royalty are naturally given, and channel that into laying the ground work for meaningful dialogue on trade, the environment, national development plans and so on.

There is nothing wrong with allowing our minds to dream the fairy tale we grow up learning about Princes and Princesses in big palaces and castles. There is nothing wrong with allowing the Royalty we have to endorse these day dreams, and give us something to smile about when we see the parades and get to enjoy the excitement of a Royal Affair. It is part of our humanity in finding hope through the dreams and aspirations we all have growing up. Every girl wants to be a princess and every boy wants to be a brave prince, sweeping to the rescue of the damsel in distress.

These are the things that dreams are made of, and our attention flocks to when a fuss is made over them. It certainly wouldn’t hurt Africa to allow its Royalty to build on its profile and enhance their involvement in National Interests in the years to come. Who knows one day we may even be able to say that 4 billion people watched the marriage of an African King and Queen.

Do They Know It’s Christmas – “Of Course We Do!”

I was reading today and came across a tweet that pointed me to this post on the Hayibo.com website, and it made me chuckle a bit, but the overall emphasis on the idea behind the content of the post, is something close to my heart. It’s good to hear it from the mouth of another African person too, and I really hope that the single does well.

Reposted from Hayibo.com

CAPE TOWN. After 28 years of silently tolerating it, a group of unemployed local musicians have joined forces to release a Christmas single, entitled ‘Yes we do,’ in response to the Bob Geldof inspired Band Aid song, ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’.

Speaking at the launch of their song, the musicians praised Geldof’s relentless quest for an answer and said they hoped their collaboration would free the Irishman and his friends to start looking for solutions to new and more important questions.
“Like Do they know about climate change in America? Or did Kim Jong-il have time to write down the abort codes for the nukes before he died? Or perhaps he can revert to the time-honoured classic – ‘Tell me why I don’t like Mondays.”

Speaking at the launch of the single, whose proceeds will go towards teaching discipline, literacy and contraception at British schools, composer and singer Boomtown Gundane said that for years he had been irked by Geldof’s assumption that hungry Africans were also stupid.

“Or was he just saying that Africans were stupid? Of course we knew it was Christmas.”

He said despite the poverty and hunger that had inspired Geldof and his friends to create the song back in 1984 that Africans had developed their own ways to remember Christmas.

“Just because we don’t have Boney M or Christmas advertising in September doesn’t mean we are oblivious to it,” said Gundane who went on to suggest that Africans were a lot like the Irish.

“They made it through disasters like the potato blight and the invention of the Protestant church without forgetting Christmas – why did they think we would forget it?”

When asked why the ensemble of African musicians, who have called themselves Plaster Cast, had taken so long to come up with a response to the Band Aid song Gundane said it had taken a while for them to realise that it wasn’t actually an elaborate joke.
“We kept waiting for them to laugh,” he said, “But the punch-line never arrived.”

Gundane said he hoped that his involvement with the song would turn him into an expert on British politics and economics in the same way ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’ had turned Geldof and Bono into the world’s leading experts on Africa.

“If I’m not sharing a platform with the Queen and David Cameron by this time next year; or headlining at Glastonbury, then I will have done something very wrong,” said Gundane.

My very best wishes to Gundane and the musicians. I hope you have a blessed Christmas, and a very happy 2012.

Looking for the New Winning Formula for Fundraising.

I was thinking to myself today as I considered the Queen’s coming Diamond Jubilee here in the UK, that out of the pomp and ceremony that we all see and experience, it is little known that as a result of the jubilee lots of small charitable organisations get to enjoy a pot of money that is set aside as a form of celebrating through giving.

It got me to thinking about the whole concept of giving. It is a conundrum that has been at the centre of much speculation by economists in recent years. What really drives us to give? Is it all about altruism and our desire to help others, or does it come out of our generosity and desire to feel good about ourselves? Or is there a social element to giving as Tim Harford would suggest on his blog looking at the impact of the recession on giving? He suggests that we give out of peer pressure, giving because we think that it’s what others expect of us.

While giving is at the very heart of charitable existence, you have to ask yourself the question “What is in it for me?” If we didn’t ask these questions, we wouldn’t be human. If you are giving for a feeling of satisfaction, then it is more probable that you will give again at some point in the future. If you are giving because you feel you are expected to, you may well be more begrudging to give again.

Sally Strove makes an interesting point on her blog when she says that all too often we lose sight of the delicate moral balance between giving and receiving. She uses the example of a business faced with the choice of tax benefits through its charitable contributions, and asks the question are we giving for all the wrong reasons? Has “What do I get out of it?”, become all too important to us as a precursor to our giving?

In her blog Sally pointed me in the direction of the Maimonides Ladder of Charity, a doctrine of giving penned by a 12th century Jewish scholar. This ladder sets out eight rungs of the ladder of giving, starting at the lowest rung and working its way up to the purest form of giving. The eight rungs are listed below.

  1. The Lowest – Giving begrudgingly and making the recipient feel disgraced or embarrassed.
  2. Giving cheerfully but giving too little.
  3. Giving cheerfully and adequately but only after being asked.
  4. Giving before being asked.
  5. Giving when you do not know who is the individual benefiting, but the recipient knows your identity.
  6. Giving when you know who is the individual benefiting, but the recipient does not know your identity.
  7. Giving when neither the donor nor the recipient is aware of the other’s identity.
  8.  The Highest – Giving money, a loan, your time or whatever else it takes to enable an individual to be self-reliant.

Imagine a world where we all consciously reached at a minimum of rung four on the ladder, and strove to achieve rung eight more consistently. How much more would the charitable community be able to achieve if we prompted ourselves to give more frequently without being asked to give.

Many charities survive through a sustained giving program supported by people who agree to pay a certain amount each month in support of the objectives of the charity. But is this model sustainable moving into the 21st Century as we face more challenging times? Can we really rely on this system of constantly presenting our begging bowl, prompting people to donate?

The challenge I guess therefore lies in getting the donor community to think about giving more constructively. What does this mean for the charitable sector, and how do we work towards ensuring that we have a sustainable source of financial income through empowering the community that support us into thinking more about what we achieve together as a community through their charitable giving. Ultimately we should be considering what the overall impact of our efforts is achieving not only as a giver, but as an organisation.

When times are good and donations are high, it is easy to fall into the trap of simply getting the job done. Yet time and time again, we find ourselves coming back to the problem at hand. Take for example the efforts of Live Aid. In the 1980’s the world came to the aid of the Horn of Africa with the best of intentions. Yet in 2011 we are once again back to a situation of televised appeals to finance another food aid program to the Horn of Africa?

In Oman, a region considered to be Water Scarce the government has invested US$52 million into a project designed to tap ground reservoirs fed by a desalination facility in Barka to provide water to millions of residents in the Dakhliyah region. Through the creation of jobs and the long term supply of water Oman has undertaken to secure the future of a region of its nation desperately needing water to develop. Is this not the same situation that befalls the Horn of Africa? You have to wonder how after raising over £150 million pounds through the Live Aid program in 1985, a proportion of the money was not set aside to secure the water future of the African nations in the Horn of Africa. It was too easy to meet the need of the people at the time without seeking to reach the eighth rung of Maimonides’ ladder and empower the African people with the tool, skills and equipment to do it for themselves.

So this is the challenge. How do we as the 3rd Sector community seeking to serve the people our organisation helps, actively encourage more proactive giving. Personally I believe that it is key to our future to develop a personal relationship with our donors and work towards involving them in the work that we undertake as an organisation. The benefits from this approach are multiple, and bring us back to that original focus about feeling good about what we give.

I agree totally with Sally when she says that the “Pay it Forward” concept of giving is a powerful tool in the quiver of the third sector. Working within the private sector to establish a corporate giving culture within the work place is a logical and effective way of securing a financial income. Gaining accreditation from a corporate body can often open the door to hundreds of employees who get the opportunity to collectively give as part of a program of giving designed to stimulate and encourage team spirit within the organisation, any donations being put forward by the staff being met pound for pound by the firm itself. This becomes a win-win situation for everyone involved. The charity gets a steady stream of income, the staff feel good about their contribution, and build a spirit of unity within their workplace, and the organisation get tax relief from their “Pay it Forward” contributions to the charity.

Another profound idea is to involve those people who donate to your cause more creatively. Everyone loves to have something to do for their community, society or to help something that they feel passionately about. People want to feel accepted and part of their community. Dale Carnegie hit the nail on the head in his book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People.’ We love to feel important, and understanding that in giving people are looking to feel good about themselves, expanding on that concept by inviting a donor to become more involved with your organisation will open the door to a whole new world of opportunity for your organisation.

Not everybody will agree to this, and careful management of the program is well worth preparing before launching your campaign, but it is the ability to think outside the box and will excite and encourage people to buy into your vision and support your cause more enthusiastically.

I encourage you to read the blogs linked within this post and take time to reflect for a moment about the importance of understanding giving completely before committing yourself or your organisation to a designated fundraising strategy. Bear in mind that in these difficult times, money is something that no one really wants to part with, but while we are all counting the pennies, feeling good about ourselves, and a desire to want to help others is an essential part of our humanity. Managing this desire effectively is important to us as a society, but more significantly to our survival as a 3rd Sector community.

Additional recommended reading: f you question motivations for giving, whether those motivations belong to you or someone else, you are not alone. For a look into the process that led Hubber RTalloni to a personal philosophy of and commitment to giving, read The Definition of Charitable Work.

The South Africa Project – Opportunity for the Youth of Africa

I recently stumbled across a program of educational development run by the George Washington University in the USA in support of youth from the rural township of Winterverldt in South Africa.

The South Africa project was launched in 2004 and each year youth from the Bokamoso Youth Centre travel to the US, stay with students from the University, attend classes and perform dance, drama and poetry as part of a development program sponsored through the Bokamoso Youth Centre Scholarship Fund.

In 2011 eleven students were hosted by the university, and while this may seem to be a small number of students when you consider that there are millions of African children desperately seeking opportunities like this, we can draw encouragement from this project as it proves that through partnership, it is possible to open the doors to African youth within International Educational facilities.

Progress through partnership is a very positive step forward, and if you consider that in the UK there are 300 facilities of Higher Education, in excess of 5.700 facilities in the USA, well over 400 facilities in Canada, 2,200 listed through China, and that is without considering Australia, Japan, Russia and other European countries.

With well over 10,000 International Educational Facilities to draw from, the leadership shown by The South Africa Project at the George Washington University could easily be rolled out internationally to suddenly provide support to over 100,000 African students. If these places were offered to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, meaning that African Universities continued to provide places to those within the African Educational system who earn the right to a place at university then we find ourselves in a position of incredible opportunity for the youth of Africa.

To set up this type of network of educational partnership across an international spectrum would certainly be a challenge, but not impossible. If a basic model of success, such as the one implemented at the George Washington was duplicated across the board, and partnerships established with communities throughout Africa, it would be left to each individual organisation to operate their Scholarship Fund, and work directly with the community that it partners in choosing its students for the next calendar year.

Great things don’t come through waiting for opportunity to knock on our door. If you look at any successful organisation or individual in this world, their success came through hunger and determination to succeed. As African people we should take heart that there is hope for the disadvantaged within our society if we get up and make it happen.

I don’t believe there is anything wrong with taking the great work piloted by The George Washington university and duplicating it. I believe that we should undertake as a community to use 2012 to network through the African educational systems, identify partitions of our society deserving of such an opportunity and work to develop an African program of development for the youth of Africa. Let’s work to take The South Africa Project of The George Washington University and make it into a worldwide Africa Project.

The 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011

Claudio Santana/AFP/Getty Images

I noticed a link posted on Facebook by my niece to bussfeed.com this afternoon. The link took me to a page titled the 45 Most Powerful Images of 2011. To be honest there were some amazing pictures on display, most of them provided through Reuters, presumably having been provided throughout the year by their freelance photographers for various news items.

While I was scrolling through the pictures, admiring the handy work and skill of some of the photographers, there were a few that stuck out to me more than most. The most impressive image in my opinion was image number 18, a picture of the eruption of a volcano erupting in Chile. The Puyehue Volcano which erupted in June 2011 caused the mass evacuation of 3000 people and the disruption of air traffic through much of the region after throwing a plume of dust 6 miles into the atmosphere. The Atlantic coverage from the 6th June 2011 has some of the most amazing photographic images of the eruption, and I recommend following this link and taking a moment to reflect on the power of nature in some truly amazing images.

Image number 12 on the list is a photograph submitted by @NevineZaki

on Twitter of protesters in Egypt. The significance of this picture falls in the fact that the image portrays Christian Egyptians forming a ring of protection around Muslims at prayer in Tahrir Square in Egypt. I was struck at the moment of national unity, when people of all walks of life, every religion, tribe, creed and sex, could come together and for a moment in time see beyond their differences. The image captured the imagination of the world and proved that when we really want to, human beings can live side by side in tolerance and acceptance. In adversity comes unity and unity is a powerful thing. The uprising in Egypt is a defining moment in our time. A moment that people came together to remind their leaders that they are not untouchable. The Arab spring has been remarkable to watch, and a source of hope that eventually one day the greater African population might take heart and learn that when we work together to overcome adversity, anything is possible.

Image number 38 was possibly the most disturbing image of the lot to me. The picture is one of such irony as it pictures a representative of an International Aid Agency in a smart suite holding an iPad taking a picture of the corpse of some African farmers livestock in a barren, desolate field. I am sure that the image was meant to visually demonstrate the effects of the famine in the Horn of Africa, but to me it just demonstrated the stark divide between the wealthy and the poor. It is the job of a professional photographer to produce an image that will evoke a multitude of emotions within the people who look at it, and in this case Stringer who is accredited with the picture has certainly achieved this. I was left with a sour taste in my mouth, thinking to myself that the owner of that animal could probably survive for a year on the amount of money that the Aid Worker has spent on his expensive suite and the technology that he was holding, yet he is more interested in acquiring a picture of a corpse to use for their next advertising campaign. This world is made up of contrast of madness and greed. The poor get poorer and the rich live in a world of copious consumerism and waste.

There are 45 fantastic images of all manner of subjects. Most of them were moments that stopped our world and dominated the headlines in one way or another. Many depict the human cost of tragedy and give a face to the pain of loss. But the last image, image number 45 is perhaps the one single image from which I draw hope. The image is well worth a look, and tell me if you don’t agree that through the eye of children, there is little wrong with our world. Life is full of hope, and fun and excitement and opportunity. If only as we got older we could maintain the optimism of youth a little more, we’d have a far more positive and productive society. This final image leaves you wondering if we can’t be a little more like the boy in the picture, and see good even in the heart of a war zone.