Wednesday, November 22, 2006

A very nice day indeed

Well, the sun is shining, it's hot, and there are very few clouds in the sky. Nicest day that we've had here in probably 2 weeks. Let's hope the Londonesque weather has been banished for a spell now.

Of course, today was a very nice day as well because I got all the paperwork finished for my new job. Now I have to wait while it is bounced around a few offices, to the government, back to the company, and final authorization is issued. That's government for you.

But, the good news is, I got the job.

I spoke with the man I interviewed with yesterday and, as I suspected, I'm "the guy". They want me to start as soon as possible, so hopefully the administrative process will proceed smoothly and quickly. My future boss said he would push it at every step as he desperately needs me in there. Very cool.

At any rate, now that it looks like I'm going to actually be working in my field, I'm pretty excited about the opportunity. It's a huge stress relief for Diana and I because had I failed to find a job in the field, well, that would have forced us out of Colombia prematurely. One can only teach english for so long.

But more than the stress relief, it's great that I'm actually going to get me feet wet in a practical way. I loved my grad program and the learning and development that I had there, but this will be a different sort of educational process.

In the immediate term, I have to educate myself on sustainable development generally, and sustainable forestry specifically. These are not subjects I really studied at all in grad school. There will also be an adjustment period once I start the job as I'll have to learn all about my new company, the policies and procedures, and the day to day requirements of the work. I'm a bit nervous about that as I have high expectations about what I want to do and I have a very long and bad memory of working for a government contractor.

Of course, this is not Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) work and this is not my old company, so I definitely can't look at it with the same lens. That job was, frankly, terrible for me personally and professionally, not only because I had a boss that frequently blamed me for her errors, but also because I was an immature professional who was completely wrong for the subject material. I look at environmental protection like I do with cakes under glass cases in the average diner: best admired from afar and not tasted.

So, while I'm sure there will be administrative details that I find unfavorable (it IS government work), I expect that the subject material and my future co-workers will be completely different from what I experienced in my passionless EPA contracting position. Instead, I expect to discover how sustainable development operates, to see successes and failures, and to really get involved in evaluating and justifying this type of assistance.

I have some real ideas already, but the questions that I think must be answered are:

Does foreign aid (sustainable development) actually contribute to the economic development of a given country?, and;

To what extent can development assistance remedy the root causes of crime, violence, and illicit crop production?

These, to me, are the big questions. I'm always in favor of development for poor nations as I don't want people to subsist in poverty. But, the bigger question, the more selfish question I should say, is can poverty reduction inhibit (or remove causal variables of) conflict?

The 2006 Nobel Prize winner said just the other night that "poverty is the root of terrorism" and I think I agree with him on that. But now I get to see first hand evidence of this hypothesis, as they say in spanish, "en vivo".

Should be interesting.


A long time ago in this space, I had a "discussion" about the Bush administration's Abstention program as a response to the AIDs crisis in Africa. For quite some time, the Cowboy President has touted Uganda as a model of how abstinence can reduce pregnancy and HIV infections. The rabid Religious Right and it's various mouthpeices had seized the Bush Admin talking points and reproduced article after article to demonstrate that it works (and, implicitly, is more "moral).

Well, sadly, the Rabid Right and the Cowboy President have used tough talk and a tenous hypothesis to doom thousands, if not millions more to death. From today's Guardian:

The spread of the HIV/Aids pandemic continues unabated, with the number of people infected rising once more in some countries which had been thought to be beating the disease, according to the UN.

There are now 39.5 million living with HIV infection, according to the annual UNAIDS report, released ahead of World Aids Day on December 1, and 4.3 million of those were infected in 2006. That is 400,000 more than were infected in 2004.

Most alarming is the increased prevalence in Uganda, long held up as a showcase to the world of what could be achieved in Africa with campaigning, education and widespread condom use. The report shows a rise from a low of 5.6% infection among men and 6.9% among women in 2000 to 6.5% in men and 8.8% in women in 2004.

The reasons for the increase are not clear, but there has been a shift in the message from Uganda's leadership. Between the early 1990s and early 2000s, HIV prevalence fell sharply in major cities among pregnant women - the group most commonly monitored because they have contact with health services - as President Yoweri Museveni worked to raise awareness of the dangers of HIV and put the authority of his office behind condom use.

But in recent years the message on condoms has been diluted in favour of greater emphasis on sexual abstinence until marriage - in line with the thinking of the Bush administration, which is spending millions of dollars on HIV prevention and treatment. Critics say many women are not in a position to abstain from sex and that many are infected by their husbands.

(Italics mine)

The article says that more research is needed to fully understand why AIDS prevention is failing, so this is isn't a definitive answer.

But here's the point:

We know that condom use prevents HIV and we know that condom promotion programs work. We don't know that abstinence education works and every indication seems to demonstrate that it's a failed venture that endangers the lives of millions.

'Nuff said.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Critics say many women are not in a position to abstain from sex and that many are infected by their husbands."

Question - Will these men use condoms just because their wives want them to?

4:51 PM  

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