Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kroonos team in Kiva

Well it´s all getting very interconnective as I´ve now created a team in Kiva, the micro-credit lending website, for Kroonos, the time bank I´m participating in. As an incentive I´ve offered an hour of credit (hours are the currency in this barter system) to the first 10 loans made by members of the Kroonos team. I´ve also had a bash at translating instructions on how to do it into Spanish. Kroonos is currently being translated into English, so watch out world, interesting changes are afoot! When I get back from NZ you´ll get to hear more about my experiences in Kroonos so far!

Here are the villagers from Cambodia who I´ve loaned to through the Kroonos team (click on the photo to find out more):

Other good news from Kiva is that they´ve reached $50 million in loans, and my first loans are being paid back (see the earlier article for details). I´ve made two more loans (it gets radically addictive - I don´t go shopping very often!), one in Cambodia (above) and the other in Benin, next to Nigeria (below). The plan is I´ll be able to put the $100 back into circulation helping other mini-entrepreneurs in developing countries. That´s the kind of cash flow I like to see!

This is Félicienne, a vegetable cultivator and mother of 6, with three kids in school. Every year the river floods the land she farms and they have to buy food for the family. She plans to use the loan to grow food on 1 hectare of land, which in turn will increase her reserves after the harvest.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tourism: For Better or For Worse

Like all engaging polemics, it´s a toughy!

Personally, I love travelling, to weave on and off the beaten track - there´s nothing like a tourist hell hole to remind you how lucky you are to discover little visited places! I am sure that I spend more on tourism than any other non-essential luxury, without doubt. Afterall, I have to admit at this point that in a month´s time we´re going to the other side of the world for a quantity of money that could easily buy a second hand car. But having said that, when we bought our car three years ago I was thinking how many times around the world that money could have taken us instead!

How did I get on to this one? Well as we were cyber travelling via google earth, trying to find the long awaited (nearly 7 years!) intercontinental destination, we flitted from one amazing place to another... the choice apparently endless. Personal recommendation is always a winner, and many of our friends in the UK and France are big travellers. One recommendation came from closer to home, a colleague here in Spain: Birmania. My response was ¿where? It turns out to be the Spanish for Burma. My second response was, "no way, you must be joking!" Antoine´s response "why on earth not?"...

Irresistibly for: practically untouched by tourism, preserved from development, the valley of a thousand temples, on top of all the typical beauty of Southeast Asia (it lies next to Thailand and Laos).
Unquestioningly against: military dictatorship, repression of peaceful political dissidents (who can be held in jail for up to 65 years) .
Not to forget: Burma suffered a terrible natural disaster in May this year when Cyclone Nargis hit, a human disaster with 80,000-100,000,000 dead and 1.5-3 million displaced and a political disaster as the government refused to allow aid workers into the areas worst hit (jailing a Burmese comedian for 45 years for raising funds to help victims).

Being in a phase of activism I tracked back to a facebook group supporting the Burmese Monks which a friend had sent me, and I started to do a little more research. The main sites are The Burma Campaign UK and the US Campaign for Burma and the Avaaz campaign (directing Aid through monks instead of barred aid organisations). There has been a call to boycott Total oil company whose business with the military Junta brings in significant revenues, $450 million a year, and also a call to put pressure on Lloyds of London to reveal which companies provide insurance to Burma. Additionally, the Nobel Laureate and democratically elected leader of Burma, Aun Sang Suu Kyi, has requested tourists boycott Burma. Why tourism? There´s a 10% tax that goes straight to the Junta and the airport and many government controlled hotels have been built on forced labour (minimum working age 13 years old).

Here I thought as a potential tourist, I could make my point. On the Burma Campaign UK site they have a clean list (of companies who have withdrawn their supply chain from Burma) and a dirty list (of companies that continue to operate and profit from these operations, thereby financially supporting the Military Junta). My action was to take the email addresses of tourism operators in Burma and write them an email explaining my position as an ethical consumer. It was the start of some interesting correspondence, some of the responses were extremely rapid (I´m certainly not the first to write to them on this subject), some were detailed, some well thought out and another rude!

The most carefully considered responses claimed that a consequence of tourism is grass roots investment when money goes straight from the hands of the generally wealthy tourist (it´s not typically a budget traveller destination) into the hands of the really poor, and very grateful Burmese. I also had a conversation with a friend here in Spain. He felt that the relationship between tourism and positive change was no small thing and there was something to be said in defence. Under Franco´s dictatorship Spain had been gradually opened up to tourism, the Costa Brava being one of the early package tour destinations. He claimed that this increased political pressure on Spain as tourism brought a cultural concern for the country and people by outsiders who had visited as tourists. Clearly here in Spain tourism has become a major source of employment and income, Barcelona being no exception over the last 15 years!

Later on, reflecting on this it reminded me how my grandad (who had wanted to join the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War, but didn´t have enough money to get to Paris to enlist) always said he wouldn´t visit Spain until Franco had gone (which he did, visiting Granada, and Benidorm!). Maybe it´s a family thing!

So I left this conundrum to settle a little while, until a showdown in a book shop.

to be continued....

So, where does this conundrum leave us?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mo Blow Movember

Moustache Liberation Movement (MoLiMo)

Mike Mo Blow is growing mo, not mowing grow for a good cause!

He thinks:

He is:

He knows:

¡And Silke too!
Movember - Sponsor Me

Friday, October 17, 2008

Freud Quiere Levantase y Bailar con el Viejo Leon Cobarde

domingo 19 octubre 2008, 18h
sunday 19 october 2008, 6pm (Central European Time)

Un concierto virtual dentro del Parashuts studio en
A virtual concert from Parashuts studio at

or if you don´t understand Spanish/Catalan try to see the streaming directly here: COMAFOSCA TV



17-18 Octubre, un fin de semana para pensar y actuar
17-18 October, a weekend to think and act against poverty and inequality

15 Octubre blog contra la Pobreza
15 October : blog awareness on poverty

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

freedom & sheep

and I almost can´t breathe for the energy
everyone seems to be stopped, staring at me
we got the art to hide and paint our face
but the truth burns hard in the eyes of the brave
if you´re so free can you stand up all alone?
you´re hiding yourself in the thoughts of the crowd
attention always drawn by the violence seeker
it takes more strength to be a peace keeper
we´re hot wired in to the animal urge
we start to sway with the first surge
it´s easier to push physical buttons and entertain
than stimulate the emotional ones in the brain
the idea is to separate us
not unite us again

Darwin´s Nightmare

fish head and cockpit, remains of a jet

the surgical white tiles in the fish fillet factory

the decomposing life moves between your toes

the singing trout sings "don´t worry... be happy"

the scramble and scrum for fists full of rice

hear 3 girlfriends´ thoughts through their eyes

war "pays well": coca-cola "life tastes good"

is easier to handle while sniffing glue

a job is a job, just don´t ask questions

ecosystem or armageddon?

Kiva: Lending Action to Alleviate Poverty

Having become an avid follower of Heidi´s delicious recipes and mouthwatering photos in 101 cookbooks I got turned on to their Kiva community lending team. At first I was cautious, trying out their links, checking out the press... they are becoming quite high profile so I decided it would do little harm in the big scale of things to me (25, 20€, 16) but may make a difference in somebody else´s world.

So today, to put my money where my mouth is for Blog Action Day O8 : Poverty, I gave loans to two women who sell clothes in markets, one in Tajikistan and the other in Azerbaijan. You can choose who you´d like to loan to: we all have our prejudices at the end of the day, whether we like it or not! (Funnily enough I´m unlikely to invest in a butcher´s...)

I got round to thinking about my hard-up mates... musicians, artists, film-makers, actresses, dancers... and thought... it´s all very well when you´ve got a proper job! But then I thought, well, Kiva helps you organise yourself into lending groups, why not create a lending group and then ask people to chip in on a loan paid through one person´s account (and lent by the group)!? Where there´s a will, there´s a way!

For me it´s a case of "what goes around comes around" a little magic touch of karma in life! The idea is that when the lender repays the loan... you can reinvest in someone else... and then someone else... and someone else... in these days of credit crunching, does it sound so crazy?

Now I´m sure philosophically or politically speaking there are bound to be some niggles, call me naïve, call me idealistic... anyhow this amount of money in my everyday life might otherwise be wasted on countless other useless fripperies or simply stuff I forgot lay at the bottom of the fridge!

Kiva - loans that change lives


Un imagen cortesia de Christopher Scally, artista del RockShakeApe

Why? The terrible 3s, 13 and 30s...

why can´t we say anything
till the moment´s too late?
why can´t we do something
till it´s too late to change?
why can´t we learn
from our most common mistakes?
why do we do it again?

Monday, October 6, 2008

prisoners of inconscience

So, in case all this has quietly passed you by... I´m trying my hand at a bit of cyberactivism, kindly supported by ant1, the welfare state, as well as a bountiful number of friends and not least of all family. I´m also being encouraged by a growing community of cyberstrangers... and although at the moment I´m more aware of the communities than in touch with individuals, the feeling´s nice all the same.

What´s this activism all about? Well it started with controversial web movies: Surplus: Terrorized Into Being Consumers, zeitgeist and on to more bona fide documentaries... The Trap and The Century of the Self (both by Adam Curtis), the assassination of Martin Luther King, Gandhi´s life... But the crucial thing that moved my interest beyond ethical voyeurism was the book "The End of Poverty in our lifetime" by development economist Jeffrey Sachs. If you are an Apathist or a Cynic (and I´m prone to being both), I ask only one thing: read it! You´re lucky you´ve been given the gift of literacy by being born in the right place at the right time!

It´s all about the UN´s Millennium Development Goals and the request for all developed country governments to assign 0.7% of their GDP to development in order to eradicate extreme poverty. What does GDP stand for, Gross Domestic Profit? Are banks being given bailouts using taxpayers money that they would never dream of giving to bail out the poor from daily life or death situations? In the US there is one private bank that´s giving credit, The Federal Reserve. Last week the US government was borrowing a record $367.8 billion A DAY, (£208bn, €269bn). That will be with interest, paid for by who? Well, taxpayers of course! Somebody´s getting richer out of the crisis, there´s no doubt in my mind at all! The MDGs say that a total of $200 billion A YEAR from all developed countries would help put the eradication of extreme poverty on target.

This campaign to bring about the end of poverty isn´t about throwing money at a problem: this is about development, it isn´t about dealing with a catastrophe in the short term: it´s about stopping the everyday disaster of people dying unnecessarily. If you believe in equality, if you believe in humanity, if you believe in "liberty" (maybe I´d call this freedom from fear?) how can you stand by with your head buried in the dunes of capitalism when people are dying of diseases like Tuberculosis (which you could have died from 50 years ago) which has had a cure for 40 years!? Should we sleep well at night with the knowledge that people are dying from Malaria which could be prevented by something as simple as a treated Mosquito net (£2.30 3€ $4), which you could buy a couple of for the price of your pillowcase!?

I don´t know anything about poverty first hand. I´m on the verge of ignorance and I´m sure some of you could, and will shed more light on this for me. Some of you have travelled much further off the beaten path than me, some have worked within charities and within social, psychological and physical healthcare, some of you just do good stuff... volunteering, donating to NGOs and most of you I reckon care a bit about these things to a greater or lesser extent. It´s difficult to talk about death, dying & disease (and that´s the ugly bottom line of poverty).

So, what am I doing? Talking, blogging, emailing... and it seems that what started as a murmur is starting to take shape as a real conversation! (Phew! I was a little anxious for a while there.) So friends have been suggesting ideas for events for Stand Up Take Action 17-19 October 2008. The tricky (and most exciting) part is that to support this you have carte blanche, you can invent any kind of event (admittedly of a non-violent nature) to raise people´s awareness that we can end extreme poverty. (Who could have thought of the end of slavery in it´s day, or everyone getting the vote? Radical change is possible!).

Ideas to share and do! (so far)
give away books you´ll never read again with an MDG info bookmark
dress as Marie-Antoinette and give away cake (and leaflets)
(C18th dress made of newspaper!!!)
dress as Robin Hood and Merry Gang giving things away
dress as banker with placard saying you´re bust because your giving your money to the poor
do a performance for the cause: a gig, poetry, dance, debate
video events, stick it on the web

For blog action day 15 October 2008:
write, post photos, videos on blogs
read, look at photos, watch videos on blogs
if you don´t have a blog, send your stuff to someone who does
if you don´t have a blog, read and comment on other people´s blogs
write about what you know about poverty
write about how you feel about poverty
write about what you think about ending poverty
put yourself in other people´s shoes
if you don´t have time that day, prepare something before and send it to someone who does (me)

I´ve been a member of Amnesty International and found it really, really difficult to face another monthly leaflet thanking me for my donation, asking for a bit more, accompanied by pictures and stories of brutal violence. It´s a really, really important cause, but it´s not nice, it´s not nice at all - but somebody´s got to fight for it.

Now we´re in the information revolution and at the moment, here in the developed world we´re led to believe that we are free - I can set up my little blog, send emails, chat, do socio-cybernetworking and not be afraid of something bad happening as a result of expressing my opinion.

When I first joined Amnesty my dad told me how in the 60s being a member could mean being denied a visa to visit the USA, now that isn´t so.

While we have this freedom, let´s use it wisely!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: 15 October

Poverty, Pobreza, Pauvreté

This is one of the major reasons why this blog exists:
15 October 2008

Le 15 octobre, les blogs participants devront publier un article, une vidéo ou un podcast au sujet de la pauvreté. Vous pouvez également faire don des revenus obtenus lors cette journée à une œuvre de charité combattant la pauvreté.

El 15 de octubre, los blogs participantes publicarán una entrada, video o podcast que tratará sobre la pobreza. Además, si lo deseas podrás donar los ingresos de publicidad obtenidos durante ese día auna institución de beneficencia relacionada con la pobreza.

The basic idea is to use the medium of blogs to communicate people´s thoughts and concerns about Poverty on 15 October, to get everyone talking about End Poverty 2015 and the Millennium Development Goals that aim to achieve this.

If you don´t have a blog, but want to participate, contact me and I´d be happy to publish on your behalf. Otherwise, check out your favourite blogs that day: read, watch videos, look at photos, think, comment, talk about it - if you ignore poverty, it won´t go away.

If you don´t know about it, find out now!
Si sabes nada de esto, buscarlo!
Si tu sais rien de tout de ça, cherche!

¿more haste, less speed?

today it dawned on me, in that very real, before sunrise, whisperings of activity on the edge of consciousness.

semi-mystical clarity, precise words falling perfectly into place in that usually befuddled existence between sleep and not quite asleep.

as the dawning came into a realisation that it had to be now, it was meant to be today and there´s no time to wait - I made my first mistake.

I didn´t search with fingertip-guided accuracy for the pencil in the drawer next to my bed... I didn´t scrabble through the expired flyers looking with mole eyes to find one unscribbled on...

no. I checked for the flickering lights of life in the modem, left the comfort of pillows and duvets, wrapped myself up in my "I´m clearly not" dressing gown and went into the living room.

living room, not sleeping room. mmm, that does explain itself well, little room for doubt there. I pressed the cute little round button on the minimac and a second or two later "BRRRNNNN".

I should have known then and there that that little sound had gone and torn it... clearly it´s as good as an alarm clock... hang on, it IS an alarm clock... it´s telling the computer to be, be awake, be! function for me!

but I blundered on: log in, now must set up blog, blog where? search, search blog in emails, search friend´s blogs, search blog in search box, is that the same as that one, two names, are they the same?

who is master, who is slave? the computer remains innocently impassive, just here at your beck and call, nothing more...

and here I am with the sunlight of the cyberworld reflected on my face, and all those little words whispered this morning have all but been erased.