Stabilizing Climate Change? – Impressions from the Aral Sea

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Between 30 November and 11 December this year, the leaders of the world are meeting in Paris for 21st session of the COP (Conference of Parties) to the  UNFCCC, which is the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Together with Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) have a special status and interest in negotiations about climate change. While SIDS are mostly threatened by a rise of water-levels due to climate change, LLDCs experience serious threats due to the melting of glaciers, their only water source. Obviously, the whole crowd of ‘stans’ is part of the latter category and Uzbekistan is together with Liechtenstein the only doubly landlocked country in the world.

While in Paris, the country representatives pledge to provide more money, commit to measurable goals etc. to manage the human-made catastrophe of climate change, there are of course also human forces that, mostly for the sake of profit, continue to work in favor of climate change, such as the Goldmining industry in Kyrgyzstan, which contaminates water resources and, together with already melting glaciers poses a threat of a flood for the country. In this post, I will address another water-related issues in Central Asia and its human origins: the Aral Sea catastrophe in Uzbekistan.

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London East End – Oranges and Lemons

IMG_29622.JPGHere comes a candle to light you to bed
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

This English nursery rhyme is part of the famous novel 1984 by George Orwell. It is also a depiction of historical life in the East End of London, both known for Jack the Ripper’s murders and Charles Dicken’s stories, where I have lived during the past year. Much has been written about it and I definitely do by no means claim to be an expert on the history or the present of the area, but I wanted to give the interested reader a glimpse into what I learned about the neighbourhood during my all too short time there.

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British Museum – or: the imperial hangover!

Unbelievably, I’m done with my Masters and thus also LonDONE (sorry for this bad pun, which is however part of an advertisement campaign in the tube…). Due to the high prices and the continuous humidity, I fled the city almost immediately after my last exam was over.

Unfortunately, due to my Masters Programme, I had little time to experience London beyond the realm of my daily trip to the centre and the rare visits by friends dragging me to the numerous street markets. However, there’s one thing that stuck to me during one of my rare exploration trips to the British Museum – I have discussed it since with friends and flatmates – Brits and non-Brits alike: the Imperial Hangover (unfortunately, a quick google search showed me that I’m not the one who invented the term after all), which allegedly led British Comedian John Oliver to say

The entire British Museum is basically an active crime scene
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London crisis – or: from post-communism to pure capitalism!

Some months ago, the US-economist Jeremy Rifkin published his newest book, in which he predicts the end of capitalism as an outdated form loosing power to the “Sharing Economy”. This model, as opposed to capitalist system of reducing marginal costs as far as possible for competition means, is based on zero marginal costs in society in many different aspects. I have not yet read the book (for more details click here) but have heard of similar models.

As nice as they sound (although of course every model bears their own problems), they are hard to believe in if you are currently living in Europe’s most capitalist city: LONDON!

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Talas – or wonderful stories of bearded horse-guys and German cemeteries.

Some time ago, I left Bishkek for a weekend and visisted Talas, where the family of a friend of mine lives. Talas region is a beautiful place in a valley in between very high mountains. It is surrounded by mountain ranges which make it hard to enter (over a pass-road from the East) but make its nature all the more remarkable:

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Except for the nature there were some things that were new to me or that I had heard about but never really experienced with my own eyes and ears. It was pretty interesting so I wanna share three facts that Talas taught me:

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NGOs that do nothing and other absurdities

“Anyone working in international development for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) over the past few years has likely had the following experience:

Working for or interacting with NGOs (such a broad category that it encompasses all manner of organizations) that serve no apparent purpose”. (africasacountry.com)

The introductory sentences are from an article featuring a new TV-series about an “NGO that does nothing”. In an interview, published on the blog “Africa is a country”, whose philosophy is about empowering the continent from within[1], the director announces the subject of the first season being about the NGO applying for a huge grant. In episode 2 they are looking for an acronym before having decided about the project’s topic.

Since this is a comedy series, it is of course highly exaggerated, but nevertheless the abovementioned quote is picking on some weak points, rubbing salt in the wounds, (or whatever you want to call it) of the critique on NGOs and foreign (humanitarian) intervention(s).

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