Identity in South Africa: A Roundtable Discussion

by bicyclemark 0 Comments
Identity in South Africa: A Roundtable Discussion
Morning group dance at the V4C.

Identity. Land. Displacement. Trauma. History. Struggle. Fear. Anger. Future. Environment. Income. Danger. Knowledge. Loss. Curiousity. Safety.

These are a few of the words that came to mind listening back to this very special round table discussion recorded in South Africa with 3 South African friends. The major topic was identity in this age of information. From the city to the rural areas. From the past to the present and beyond, we discuss what is happening for many people around the topic of identity. This was a spontaneous, beautiful conversation recorded a few weeks ago at the V4C gathering in Boschendaal. Furthermore, as our dear guests ask at the end of the program, it would really mean something to hear back from you about what you think, feel and experience around these issues.

Making Private Water Public Again

by bicyclemark 5 Comments
Making Private Water Public Again

Tap Water

Photo by Sammcox/ flickr

Has your water utility been privatized in the past decade? Are today’s water companies really investing in infrastructure and improvements? How much democracy is there in your water bill? If any of these questions sound familiar, you probably care about who is in charge of bringing water to your home. And after all the promises that came with the privatization of water systems, many cities around the world have determined they want their water utility to be transparent, democratic, and public again. They call it, the re-municipalization of water. And on virtually every continent, it is taking root.

Today on the podcast, in an effort to understand what is happening with water companies and the re-municipalization of water, we hear from Dr. David McDonald of Queen’s University Canada. Over the past few years he has been studying and speaking about what is happening with water around the world.  He co-authored the recent book “Remunicipalisation: Putting Water Back into Public Hands” which looks at case studies of from around the world. Cities like Paris, France; Hamilton, Ontario; Buenos Aries, Argentina; and Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. (available for free download)

Visit the Municipal Services Project for more background information and news on this issue.  I also recommend their video below which is a great tool for better understanding what is going on with our water systems.

Getting to know Fairphone

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Showing copper

Showing Copper after cleaning

For the past few months I have been watching online and listening to conversations offline about the initiative by a group of people here in Amsterdam which looks at how mobile phones are made and how their production effects people and the environment around the world.  It is one of those difficult to address issues, because we are talking about a device that is so essential and so present in everyone’s life in almost every corner of the planet. And while we can be critical, perhaps, of the companies that produce them, we still need the device so sometimes the questions aren’t asked and the practices aren’t closely scrutinized.


Until now.

The concerned group of people involved in Fairphone have decided to build the world’s first ethically produced phone, as they explain it:

Our aim of fairness is simple: to not harm man or nature in creating our phone. Not in transporting or producing it. And not in acquiring the raw materials for it.

As their first step in researching and beginning on the production process of the phone, they recently went to Congo (DRC) to meet with artisanal miners and learn about their working conditions, as well as what they would want in terms of fair treatment and payment as the source of the raw materials that eventually make the devices function.  In the process they also purchased raw cobalt and brought it back to the Netherlands to be used in their first prototype phones.  Thus completing the very basic but very little known step one of building our mobile phones, the mining of raw materials.

After having learned all about their initial efforts to both build a phone and shed light on an issue with global impact, I decided to get involved as a journalist and a concerned citizen/phone user. My aim is to follow this process and pass on information to the public, to stimulate conversations that could help on the road to more ethical production of the devices we love and use so much.

More information and reporting to come. This was only my own journalistic step 1 towards getting to know fairphone and an industry that could use a good kick in the pants.

5th World Water Forum

by bicyclemark 2 Comments

Not the sexiest topic for the mass media to cover, but over in a city I like very much – Istanbul – the 5th World Water Forum is taking place.? Essentially a meeting about addressing the state and future of the planet’s water, this is supposed to be the gathering where conflicts and concerns are discussed and hopefully solutions are found.

Looking around at what organizations and individuals are attending, one could argue that the concerns about protecting access to water, quality and affordability especially, is definitely on the agenda.? But as with the previous 4 meetings, the big name water companies like RWE and Suez will also be there, corporations that have been busy buying up water systems throughout the world for more than a decade.? Naturally if any discussions are going to take place, it makes sense that all stakeholders in the water management world are a part of them. Yet the record of many of these players call into question any serious claim of wanting water as a human right and an essential resource for life, to be protected and respected. The spirit of viewing water as a commodity is very much still out there.

Over the next 5 days I’ll gather up what I can coming from the conference and its participants. Taking a look at what gives hope and what brings concern from the 5th World Water Forum.