The Wilberforce Award: The population puzzle part 2

Our Neuroanthropology blog has moved to PLoS Blogs, and if you are interested in the topic of sustainable population growth, you may be interested in The Culture of Poverty Debate, The Culture of Poverty Debate continued, and Culture of Poverty: Analysis and Policy.

Attention to the Population Puzzle has been gaining attention with blogs written by: Rachel in Melbourne, Himalayan Sun, EconNewsAustralia, Simon Butler, Thomas Parkes, North Canberra Community Council, Jeremy Williams, Steve Austin, Population Media Center, Sharon Ede, The Australian, 2UE, and more… If there is a team of people ready to constructively and ethically address this problem, then count me in.

So far, over 1,200 people have read my post about The Wilberforce Award, but that’s not enough. It concerns me that only 550 or so people are fans of the facebook group “Dick Smith’s Wilberforce Award“, and that almost 4000 people are fans of a group called “What’s with the sudden overpopulation of wannabe ‘rappers’ ??!!” We need action and education. Or maybe we just need a rapper to bring lyrics about overpopulation to the world stage. Maybe someone like Matt Chamberlin, or… um… maybe not…  I think I’m more partial to someone like Imogen Heap spreading the message with inspiring music and splendid visuals… But Matt’s video clip is a comic and engaging way to raise awareness nonetheless.

Talking about popular music and population growth reminds me of my favourite Indonesian singer, Rhoma Irama  the king of Dangdut music—a popular style of music in Indonesia. When I was doing my fieldwork in Indonesia during 2007-2009, people would laugh when I told them that I liked the music of Rhoma Irama. They laughed even harder when I tried to sing any of his songs. Rhoma Irama was a huge star in Indonesia during the 70s and 80s. In 2007, locals didn’t expect a foreigner in his twenties to enjoy Dangdut music, let alone Rhoma Irama. But talking about Rhoma Irama’s music was a quick and easy way for me to find common points of interest with people in the places I was working. In 1977, Rhoma Irama released a song called “135million” that was about the number of people living in Indonesia and their many ethnic origins. The song still enjoys popularity, but people often joke that the lyrics need to be constantly changed. And really, every year, the lyrics need to be changed. By 1980, the population of Indonesia had grown to 147.5million and today the population is approaching 235million. When you have lived in the shanty towns of Indonesia, the overcrowded villages of the highland regions, and the poverty-ridden cities of the coast, you see first-hand the effects of rapid and unsustainable population growth. (Interested in Indonesia and the developing world? Read more about Globalisation and Ethics in Indonesia, and Globalisation, Ethics and Wellbeing).

Three websites that I highly recommend to everyone interested in birth rate, life expectancy, and population growth is the new Public Data Explorer available through Google;  Gapminder for an amazing array of publicly accessible data; and Poodwaddle World Clock for an engaging site with the most up to date statistics of our times (pun intended). Mixing design, statistics, and experience in global development, Hans Rosling delivers a fantastic presentation on global health for the TEDtalks available through YouTube. I urge you to watch it, you will not be disappointed.

At Macquarie University, I have been teaching for a subject on Human Evolution and Diversity. One of the rooms we use is an experimental education facility where one wall is entirely covered with whiteboad paint. That means that you can use the entire wall as a giant whiteboard. In the final tutorial of the year, I drew a line starting at a power-socket in the bottom left-hand corner of the wall, continued along the skirting board at the base of the wall, and then abruptly curved upwards at the right end of the wall. With the students, we plotted dates, important developments in medicine and technology, and population figures. Starting somewhere around 7million people pre-agriculture some 20,000 years ago, students were amazed to see just how suddenly population has soared since 1500AD (only recently) and peaked at 7billion people at the top right hand corner of the room.  Their faces grew from excitement at the beginning of the tutorial, to astonishment at the end of the tutorial. One of the most interesting discussions was about whether or not we owe China carbon-credits for the one-child policy. After vibrant discussions in all of my tutorial classes, there was a firm consensus that a multi-pronged, interdisciplinary and multi-sector effort was required to successfully implement steps to a sustainable future. Next year, we will continue a study group about sustainable populations for interested students. Our first venture will be to update the information contained in the chapter on “Mining Australia” in Jared Diamond’s illuminating book, “Collapse”.

For those of you who are interested, I have written an article looking at Population growth, urbanisation & pollution in the developing world, which has been published by the postgraduate journal, NEO: Journal for Higher Degree Research Students in the Social Sciences and Humanities, Volume 3, 2010. This article is in English and French and has received fantastic support and feedback from my friends and colleagues in the Amicale des Centres Internationaux Francophones. Merci a vous tous! One of the ideas I raise in this article is the cheap production and distribution of the contraceptive pill to women who wish to use it. Now that the pill is off-patent, it means that we could turn this idea into a reality. And, in light of recent research highlighing the enormous health benefits the pill offers women, this idea becomes even more of an ethical imperative. Contrary to popular and misplaced belief, the pill has actually been proven to have a raft of health benefits. See this TVNZ special for more.

Dick Smith’s million dollar prize is for a solution at home, in Australia. How can we organise our economy, be more strategic about skilled migration, and simultaneously accomodate for an aging population? I recommend following the developments of the Population Puzzle on facebook and Dick Smith’s website. And of course, stay tuned to our neuroanthropology blog for more. As soon as I finish my PhD on cultural evolution, I plan to turn my attention to the question of a sustainable future for the country I call home.
 
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Your Great x 2360 Grandpa was a Neanderthal!

Is your Dad the descendent of a Neanderthal? Visit our PLoS website to find out more. 

Recent evidence has shown that a small percentage of human DNA is Neanderthal. This Neanderthal DNA entered the human gene pool between 80,000 and 50,000 years ago.

While human DNA may contain traces of Neanderthal ancestors, mitochondrial DNA from Neanderthals has not been found in humans. Mitochondrial DNA comes uniquely from your mother. Is it plausible that male Neanderthals were able to mate with female humans, but that the reciprocal cross was unable to occur?

Analyses of the Y chromosome suggest that we share a common male ancestor 59,000 years ago. Could this male ancestor have possibly been Neanderthal?

If our common male ancestor is neanderthal, and considering that the Y chromosome is transmitted uniquely through the paternal line, could it mean that men are more closely related to Neanderthals than women? Have men and women truly come from two different species?

Visit the full post on our PLoS website for the full explanation of this intriguing hypothesis.

Deacon featured on PLoS Neuroanthropology

Neuroanthropology has moved to PLoS Neuroanthropology.

Our recent feature was Terrence Deacon’s article on the evolution of language in PNAS (May, 2010). You may like to read our in-depth post. Here’s a teaser:

Deacon (2010) puts forward an argument that language was not exclusively the product of the interorganismic processes of natural and sexual selection. Interorganismic processes include differential reproduction, divergence, drift, recombination and environment-correlated preservation (niche complementation). Deacon hypothesises that language evolved from the space for innovation afforded by the relaxation of selective pressures and the recruitment of intraorganismic evolution-like processes. Intraorganismic processes include redundancy, degeneracy, epigenetic accommodation, and synergy-correlated preservation (redistribution and complexification).

To read our more in-depth summary visit PLoS Neuroanthropology. And you can also check below the fold for a video of Deacon lecturing, as well as links to other coverage of Deacon’s work.

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The Wilberforce Award: The Population Puzzle

Australian Businessman Dick Smith has just launched the Wilberforce Award for a young person under 30 who can demonstrate “leadership in communicating an alternative to our population and consumption growth-obsessed economy”. The media launch was spicy and the sexy photo shoot may have momentarily inspired a population rise. Maybe not the result intended. But moving our minds above our navels is a must in the campaign for the future of a Sustainable Australia and a Sustainable Planet. The $1million prize is nothing compared to the prize of a Sustainable future!

Details about how to win the award are available on DVD. The first step is to listen to the podcast from “Big Ideas” by Professor Tim Jackson which was delivered before a capacity audience (hmmm… the Prof obviously arrived just in time): Prosperity without Growth

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Globalisation, Ethics and Wellbeing

 

 

Recent tax increase on cigarettes in Australia and some thoughts on the downstream effects:

On April 29, 2010, The Sydney Morning Herald reports 25% tax increase on cigarettes. Smokers rushed to stock cigarettes for ‘future crisis’ period. Hot on the heels of last week’s post about Globalisation, cigarettes and international pop artists, this week Anupom Roy from the Department of Anthropology, Macquarie University, considers the hard facts of transnational tobacco sales.

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Globalisation: the products but not the ethics

  

One of the ‘Quotes of the day’ in Time Magazine on the 21st of April 2010 was:

“They have made the mistake of letting the Marlboro Man into the country. “

A photo is featured alongside the quote. In the photo, there is a billboard advertising L.A. Lights cigarettes and an upcoming Kelly Clarkson concert in Indonesia. The Tapei Times writes: “Just a few kilometers after passing a towering Marlboro Man ad, a second billboard off the highway promotes cigarettes with a new American face: Kelly Clarkson.” Radiosophie report: “The marketing ploy comes two years after Alicia Keys objected to a similar tobacco-fuelled sponsorship deal in Indonesia.” The Los Angeles Times and Jakarta Globe also covered the story.

Since the scandal, Kelly Clarkson has allegedly cancelled her tour and her Tobacco-company sponsorship, but the same cannot be said for the Tobacco-company sponsored tours of Incubus (Jakarta, 5 March 2008), James Blunt (Jakarta21 May 2008), or Jamiroquai (Bogor, 8 April, 2009). Tickets to these concerts cost little more than Four US dollars ($US4), so it is clear that without huge sponsorship deals from Tobacco companies, the big artists simply would not perform in Indonesia. It makes me wonder, how many other Pop artists escape the Paparazzi radar and perform with Tobacco-company sponsorship in Indonesia?

For me, these billboards exemplify what globalisation brings and what it doesn’t bring to the developing world. It brings the products but not the ethics. 

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Highlights from “Complete This Quote”

“Complete This Quote” has been running for six months and it is time to wrap up the first season of fun. Thank you to everyone who participated and enjoyed this merry-making mayhem! You may like to browse through the quotes and responses that we have collected over this time. See below for some of the highlights! Feel free to add new responses to these posts. We always enjoy your creativity!

One of my personal favourites was this ending to Dr Seuss’s quote by one of our readers, Stefan:

“You have brains in your head, you have……thoughts in your brain, thoughts control actions which make us insane.”

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