Friday 24 January 2014

Neighbours Day 2014

Neighbours Day Aotearoa 2014 is coming up at the end of March.  If you're in New Zealand, maybe you could start thinking about organising a gathering in your street?

Martin, Sarah and I have found Neighbours Day a fun and fairly non-threatening way to get to know some of our neighbours.  Don't be put off by the apparent complexity of our event!  We happen to have a very energetic woman who coordinates organisation for our street so what happens here is moderately involved.  However, it can be much simpler.  Last year my friend Anna simply invited people to her place for afternoon tea :-)

If you think that sounds like a fun and worthwhile thing to do, check out the NDA website: they have a bunch of resources to help you get started.

The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries

 I've just read an encouraging article (recommended by Paul Windsor) entitled The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries.  It describes the work of sociologist Robert Woodberry, who believes he has established that:
Areas [of the world] where [19th century] Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.
 As far as he can tell, the presence of such missionaries was far more significant than any other factor(s) (culture, climate, other historical factors etc.) in making this difference. He doesn't know exactly what caused this difference, but he notes that missionaries promoted the idea that all people were of equal worth and also that they tended to teach reading and establish both schools and printing presses - all things that could tend towards the establishment of democracy.

Even in places where very few people converted, missionaries seem to have had a profound economic and political impact.  However, independence from the colonial state appeared to be necessary.  Catholic missionaries often were state-sponsored.  Woodberry notes:
One of the main stereotypes about missions is that they were closely connected to colonialism.  But Protestant missionaries not funded by the state were regularly very critical of colonialism.
I know that missionaries here in New Zealand were influential in the writing of the Treaty of Waitangi and were also energetic in protesting various government and settler land grabs.

Although the article I read is from a Christian publication, Woodberry's work has apparently been published in a prestigious, peer-reviewed sociological journal.  It's a single study, so there could well be another explanation of this effect that he has missed, but his secular academic peers are taking the claims seriously.

The article concludes with 8 brief biographies of 19th century protestant missionaries who made a significant difference in the countries in which they worked.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Carbon offsetting

Yesterday a friend told me that she's really looking forward to a relaxing week in Fiji after a really busy few months.  I was happy for her that she could have this holiday, but sad to think of the suffering flying inflicts on some of the world's most vulnerable people.  The flights were already booked so it seemed too late to encourage her and her husband to consider holidaying in the Bay of Islands or somewhere else local instead, but maybe they could at least offset the carbon emissions of the flight.  After thinking about it for a while, this is the email I sent in response:
Hi again,
A relaxing week in Fiji sounds lovely :-)

May I ask, have you considered offsetting your carbon emissions for the flights?

As a Christian, the human suffering and death climate change is causing concerns me deeply.  This is the article that first opened my eyes to what Western lifestyles are doing to people in low-lying poor countries like Bangladesh.

However, it need not all be doom and gloom!  Planting trees etc. can soak up the carbon that planes emit, meaning that people like those in the article can see their children grow to healthy adulthood after all.  That's what carbon offsetting is all about.  There's more information about it and how it works here and here.

In addition, the charity that Martin and I use for carbon offsetting (Trees Water and People) doesn't just plant trees for the sake of it.  They employ people in poor communities in Latin America to grow the trees and plant them out, plus the trees are planted in places where they'll be useful: like to stabilise soil on eroded hillsides, or fruit and nut trees planted in places where people don't generally get to eat a good balanced diet.  They also provide fuel-efficient cookstoves to people in places like Haiti, which are better for the people who use them as they're cheaper to run and less smoky, and they provide solar heating for people living on Native American reservations in the US.  I like the way that donating to them helps both our poor brothers and sisters in low-lying places like Bangladesh as well as our poor brothers and sisters in the places where TWP actually work :-)

For flights, we use this calculator to figure out what our carbon emissions are.  Your flights to Fiji will emit around 2 tonnes over the round trip (for the both of you, not each).  If you wanted to offset them using Trees Water and People, their offsets page is here.  You can choose whether you want your money to go to treeplanting, cookstoves or solar heating.  Alternatively, you could search online for a programme that did work you particularly liked: there are heaps to choose from.  Carbon footprint has lots of projects to choose from.

I hope you don't mind me raising this matter.  I'd be really interested in hearing your response.  And I do hope you have a lovely holiday after all the recent busyness!


--Heather :-)
I'm mostly putting this on the blog so I can refer to it again later myself, but I'd be interested if any of you had any comments to make on it, too :-)

Tuesday 7 January 2014

We went to the beach!

Martin and I are in Whangarei, staying with his parents for two weeks.  The highlight for me has definitely been getting to go to the beach!  We've been twice - on Wednesday of last week then again yesterday.  It took a lot of preparatory resting to manage it, plus a lot of help whilst there, but it was so much fun!

Martin and Dad assembling the beach wheelchair

Picnic day 1 - the shelter was my Christmas present from Martin

Entering the water

At our beautiful picnic spot, day 2

Day 2 picnic

A very happy Heather

Mum 'swimming' with us - she seemed keen to minimise contact with the water!

We had a lovely time.  The water was warm and the weather was perfect :-)

There are a few more pics up on flickr.