UNESCO: Not exactly "Greening the Blue" - an open letter

Open letter to Irina Bokova, Director General UNESCO, Paris.

Dear Ms Bokova,

I attended a scientific conference - on climate change, above all - at UNESCO in July. I was very surprised that UNESCO does not have an up to date recycling policy, nor any infrastructure to separate recyclable waste and have it processed/disposed of. I could not find any bins to separate plastics, metal waste or clearly marked paper-only bins.

And that in the midst of a "Greening the Blue" campaign within the UN (http://www.greeningtheblue.org/ ), and good common sense and practice for all citizens, leave along UN staff.

I also take note of your "Staff Guide to Greening UNESCO" http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0019/001914/191471e.pdf which urges your HQ staff to...:
"use your own bags to collect bottles, cans, wrappers, etc. Then carry them home for recycling in the designated yellow or white bins"

This might have been ok in the 60's, but, dear Ms Bokova, we are 2015, where any UN organization should show the lead in environmental protection, recycling and green-living awareness. Especially UNESCO.

I am very much looking forward to your answer on this, which will be published.


Peter Casier
Retired UN staff.

Officially, this is what Ms Bokova states on UNESCO's commitment to "Greening the UN":

"Limiting climate change requires a change of deep-rooted behaviours and a collective effort involving every individual. UNESCO promotes sustainability and is examining critically its greenhouse gas emissions so as to reduce the Organisation's carbon footprint."

As far as I am concerned: one needs to put his/her money where his/her mouth is. And UNESCO does not. Much bla-bla but no boum-boum, where UNESCO should lead by example.

Picture: A general waste bin at UNESCO headquarters in Paris (July 2015)... No recycling nor separating recycable wasts... In the year "2015-2015", as the song goes.

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As said in an earlier post, there is something to be said to define the border between press freedom, freedom of expression and just plain human decency.

In their recent post, Charlie Hebdo crossed the border, in my book.

Imagine it was one of your kids, and they would make fun of their death, their drowning...

As one person commented on my Facebook stream: "If death (of a child) is the subject of satire, what kind of humans are we?"

Sorry, Charlie Hebdo, but "#jenesuispluscharlie". Shame on you!

To put it more bluntly: Fuck you, Charlie Hebdo,.. May you rot in hell.

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Another view on our expedition to Heard Island

An excellent video by my friend James Brooks about our 1997 expedition to Heard Island in the Antarctic.

This video draws an excellent parallel between our expedition and the first scientific expedition in 1947, 50 years before ours. It features some unique historic perspective and old film footage.

The video was made in broadcast quality, geared for commercial TV stations.

Another video about this expedition, geared for the radio amateur public can be viewed here.
If you are interested in expeditions to really remote locations all over the world, check out James' other videos.


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#jesuischarlie, or not?

Nothing justifies curtailing the freedom of expression, press freedom, nor the killing of journalists. Nothing justifies the slaughtering of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and journalists.

But there is something to be said about tolerance and acceptance of other cultures.

If I look through some of the previous Charlie Hebdo cartoons (and I purposely did not publish any here, but look here and here), I hesitate between freedom of expression and the right to insult purposely.

We have the right to a freedom of expression, but I think nothing justifies intentionally insulting other cultures nor religions.

That is my take on it.

Cartoon courtesy David Pope

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The Afghan Quarterback

The coach had put together the perfect team for the Chicago Bears. The only thing that was missing was a good quarterback. He had scouted all the colleges and even the Canadian and European Leagues, but he couldn't find a ringer who could ensure a Super Bowl win.

Then one night while watching CNN he saw a war-zone scene in Afghanistan. In one corner of the background, he spotted a young Afghan soldier with a truly incredible arm. He threw a hand-grenade straight into a 15th story window 100 yards away. -KABOOM!

He threw another hand-grenade 75 yards away, right into a chimney. -KA-BLOOEY!

Then he threw another at a passing car going 90 mph. -BULLS-EYE!

"I've got to get this guy!" Coach said to himself. "He has the perfect arm!"

So, he brings him to the States and teaches him the great game of football. And the Bears go on to win the Super Bowl.

The young Afghan is hailed as the great hero of football, and when the coach asks him what he wants, all the young man wants is to call his mother.

"Mom," he says into the phone, "I just won the Super Bowl!"

"I don't want to talk to you, the old Muslim woman says. "You are not my son!"

"I don't think you understand, Mother," the young man pleads. "I've won the greatest sporting event in the world. I'm here among thousands of my adoring fans."

"No! Let me tell you!" his mother retorts. "At this very moment, there are gunshots all around us. The neighborhood is a pile of rubble. Your two brothers were beaten within an inch of their lives last week, and I have to keep your sister in the house so she doesn't get raped!" The old lady pauses, and then tearfully says,

"I will never forgive you for making us move to Chicago!

With thanks to TGIF-Jeff!

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The US and dirty wars

They say if you put a frog in water and slowly warm up the pot, the frog will not notice the increasing temperature and boil to death. A metaphor showing how often we get used to situations, as they gradually get worse and run out of control...

I watched the documentary movie "Dirty Wars" by Jeremy Scahill, an American investigative journalist who also exposed the "frog in boiling water" role of Blackwater in US wars and homeland security.

"Dirty Wars" exposes the increasing role of US covert operations to capture or (mostly) kill anyone, anywhere, without any due juridicial process or proper public oversight. "Dirty wars" takes the specific examples of the killing of civilians in Gardez (Afghanistan), women and children in Al Ma'jalah (Yemen) and of two US civilians in Yemen (cleric Anwar Awlaki and his 16-year-old son Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki). It focuses on the role of JSOC, the notorious US para-military branch which reports directly to the US President, bypassing the "normal" military chain of command.

I think this is a typical example of "a frog in boiling water"... We all sympathized with the US, and the victims of the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11. There was a significant global consent of the US invasion of Afghanistan to eradicate the Taliban and kill Bin Laden. But as of then things have just turned for the worse and the US took the global sympathy of 9/11 to move on to abolish proper human rights, juridicial process, international law and public oversight. Be it the invasion of Iraq -now internationally recognized as based on fake evidence and subversive economic motives-, the capture and detention of civilians -Guantanamo-, to random drone attacks on the soil of sovereign countries -just about anywhere in the world-, to the use of private militia and obscure security firms to execute its own "private" wars, and intrusion of the privacy of citizens -the revelations of Edward Snowden on NSA practices-,....

As time went by, from 9/11 to now, I think it is time to jump out of the boiling water, and question the foreign politics of the US, with all of its related issues. How is it that a single country, which prouds itself to stand up for worldwide democracy, can get away with worldwide unilateral military action without being questioned?

The issue is not just the accountability, oversight, human rights, states' sovereignty, etc.. But the issue is also that it is getting worse. "Dirty wars" claims that the unilateral covert operations increased over time -more now under Obama than under Bush JR, for God's sake-. It gradually shaped the world's perception of the US, and how it turns the world more polarized "extremist" action against the US and its foreign policy. The issue is not just the foreign policy actions themselves, but how they clearly don't work. Proof in case is that the initial feeling of sympathy for the US in Afghanistan and even Iraq, turned completely against the US, and how they polarized the world so much "with us or against us". With a growing sense of "against us".

No matter how cynical it might be, but somewhere it is comforting to see how Russia bluntly and publicly put the US foreign policy with its back against the wall: in Syria - where Putin took the wind out of Obama's sails for an imminent assault on Syria through shrewd foreign diplomacy, and did so again in the Ukraine -by invading the country before the US could say "1-2-3"-. While the latter - the invasion of a sovereign country- can not be justified, it is reassuring that somewhere the world powers might be slightly more balanced than in 2001-2003, even it were by matching the US through employing the same foreign tactics.

It is time for us, frogs, the leap out of the boiling water, and call the US to justice. It would not only serve international political balance, but most of all serve the rights of us, the citizens of the world.

Photo courtesy J.Ronald Lee

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