Category Archives: DPchallenge

Dear World, From the World

Dear World,

 

This Friday, 21st September, is the UN’s International Day of Peace.

It is a call for all people, in all nations, in all places in all the world to come together and stop fighting.

Just for one day.

Do you think you could do that?

Imagine if you could.

 

Without armed conflict, we could build up the pillars of sustainable development.

Natural resources could be used for the benefit of society, not to finance wars.

Children could be in school, not recruited into armies.

National budgets could focus on building human capacity, not deadly weapons.

 

This year saw world leaders, civil society, local authorities and the private sector meeting together in peace in Rio de Janeiro for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

They were looking for a way to commit to long term sustainable development, so that there will be a better future for all.

But sustainable development requires sustainable peace, which itself requires sustainable development.

 

“Peace is not merely a distant goal which we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

 

The root causes of many conflicts are directly related to or fuelled by valuable natural resources, such as diamonds, gold, oil, timber or water.  Addressing the ownership, control and management of natural resources is crucial to maintaining security and restoring the economy in post-conflict countries.

Good natural resource management can play a central role in building sustainable peace in post-conflict societies.

 

“Peace cannot be kept by force.  It can only be achieved through understanding.” – Albert Einstein

 

The International Day of Peace offers people around the world a shared date to think about how, individually, they can contribute to ensuring that natural resources are managed in a sustainable manner, thus reducing  potential for disputes, and paving the road to a sustainable future, the “Future We Want“.

 

On the International Day of Peace, the United Nations calls for a complete cessation of hostilities around the world.

I call for it.

The world calls for it.

 

At noon local time, please observe a minute of silence for the International Day of Peace.  Think about how you can contribute to a better future.  Think about victims of conflict, and honour them.

 

On the International Day of Peace, we call on combatants around the world to find peaceful solutions to their conflicts.

Let us all work together for a safe, just and prosperous future for all.

 

Thank you,

on behalf of The World

(by proxy of this blog/email and the United Nations).

 

PS – How will you honour the International Day of Peace?  I’d love to hear about it.

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What Would Terry Pratchett Say?

Terry Pratchett. Photo: Les WilsonSir Terry Pratchett is an English fantasy novelist and Alzheimer’s sufferer.  Apparently having Alzheimer’s has made him even more famous than the 70 million books in 37 languages that he has sold worldwide.  I’m not sure on that one, but one thing I do know is that he is an all-round legend and his writing has personally inspired me in more ways than I knew…  Until I took on this week’s Writing Challenge.

This week the challenge asked us to talk about a writer whose style has most influenced our writing voice.

Which really made me stop and think.

How do I write?

This blog is about, mainly, marine conservation.  Its tone is generally one of news reportage, awareness-raising, and examination of issues.  It’s called ‘Sea Change – transforming the way we view the world’ not because I have some egotistical idea that what I write will change the world, but because I believe that every action we take to improve our personal (and others’) environment will ultimately make some difference, and because Gandhi said “We must be the change we wish to see in the world”.  Call it spreading the idea of good karma through positive influence, if you will.

I draw on my science background and love of the English language to (hopefully) write with an ‘informed’, informal bias towards the environment and against silly people (although I know we’re all only human in the end).  Sometimes there’ll be a random post about a more personal issue –  the frustrations of ink running out, how awesome my coffee cup is, or why I feel it’s okay to get out of bed on a Monday morning and face the world.  I’m influenced by my surroundings (especially on a sunny day), by my lower-middle-class-upper-working-class English upbringing, by the places I go, the people I meet, the books I read and my own personal opinions.

Which were formed, to a large extent, during my first 20 or so years.  This is perhaps because, as Sir Terry puts it, “Wisdom comes from experience. Experience is often a result of lack of wisdom.”  I know that I certainly haven’t stopped gaining experience… But there is such a lot to learn when you start out, isn’t there?

As a self-proclaimed bookworm, I used to read a whole lot.  These days I manage to bury my head in a chapter or two on the train during the daily commute, but time is limited (there seems to be so much less as you get older, don’t you think?)  However, I still find time for my favourite author of all time, Terry Pratchett.  His witty, cynical, satirical and often downright laugh-out-loud fantasy novel series, Discworld, has had me hooked for the past 15 years (at least).  TP writes with an eloquent, fluent style which somehow manages to portray a flat world balancing on the backs of four elephants who are in turn standing on top of a giant turtle swimming slowly through space as a parody of our own in a funny, sharp and engaging way.  His ideas on, for example, cats (“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.”), creation (“In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.”), and human existence (“The most important problem is we’re trying to understand the fundamental workings of the universe via a language designed for telling each other where the fruit is.”) have inevitably influenced me (I am a cat worshipper, an atheist, and a biologist. Go figure).

And although I’m not nearly as witty as Sir Terry, I like to think I’ve got a good dose of his cynicism, sarcasm and general outlook on life, along with a love of fantasy (on which subject TP says, “Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.”)

In writing style, TP originally wrote whole books without a single chapter.  He would separate periods of action between different characters with long paragraph breaks, and occasionally a line of asterisks.  He also tended to use a lot of footnotes.  These days I’ve noticed that chapters are appearing in his novels, but perhaps this is in response to his Alzheimer’s disease, making it easier to keep track of the order of things.  Or perhaps his writing style has just changed.

***

I don’t write novels.  Or at least, I haven’t completed one yet.  If I did I would probably use chapters. In blogging I have been known to use headers (occasionally), bullet points (rarely), and pictures (quite often, to make things more interesting).  But the influence of Sir Terry is still there in the long – and short – sentences, occasional comment that seems pretty random, and dry tone that I have been told sometimes crawls out from the woodwork to make itself heard.

I hope that I write eloquently enough.  Sometimes I even try for humour.  Perhaps I’m less cynical than I think I ought to be, since the introduction of the idea that humanity will inevitably destroy itself (consider: “Some humans would do anything to see if it was possible to do it.  If you put a large switch in some cave somewhere, with a sign on it saying ‘End-of-the-World Switch.  PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, the paint wouldn’t even have time to dry.”)  Perhaps this is because I believe that the world is, in spite of everything, a pretty awesome place.  It’s a good thing to notice the negative aspects, the problems we are causing (locally, globally, in nature and amongst ourselves), and the issues which need action.  This will lead us towards a better living environment, and in the end, that’s what we’re all aiming for, isn’t it?

But let’s not lose sight of the big picture.  Burying yourself in cynicism and disillusionment won’t make your world a better place.  Face it, life’s pretty funny.  If Terry Pratchett can find humour in the chaos of society, and quiet dignity in the face of an illness which is whittling away at his mind, I think anybody can.  So let’s go out there and be positive.  Be realistic.  Be hopeful.

Most of all, let’s have a laugh.  I think that’s what Terry Pratchett would say.

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The Sound of Blogging

This is the first time I’ve written for the weekly writing challenge. I’m surrounded by silence, by the sound of my neurons firing frantically as I try to figure out what this article is going to be.

Actually, I lied. It’s not silence. There is sound all around me. My computer is humming softly to itself, occasionally muttering and flickering its lights. The speakers are emitting white, static-y sound. But apart from the tapping of the keyboard keys, my desk is quieter than the one next to me. You can hear the sound of that computer anywhere in the house. I blame the fan. And the fact that it’s a boy’s computer with blue internal lights.  Machines have personality and that one’s is loud.

The rush hour cars are illegally speeding by past my front window. That’s another sound that doesn’t often cease; it’s become background to me. The fridge is humming electronically. Across the road is a dog behind a fence that will bark at anything, especially cars. Do dogs see colour? I wonder if across-the-road-behind-the-fence dog has a favourite car colour, and whether he/she barks more or less often at those. I always point out a VW camper van (you know, the ones the hippies love) whenever I see one. If I was a dog I’d be barking.

Here comes the evening again. It must be getting to dusk now because I just heard an insect croaking outside. Definitely croaking, rather than singing, or chirping, or another bright and happy sound. This insect doesn’t sound bright and happy. Perhaps he’s as sick of the barking as  I am. Or maybe in his world, the ideal mate is one that loves emos, and dark mysterious music of the night.

Hmmm. All of these are definitely sounds, but as I write it does feel that I am surrounded by silence. Or rather, a lack of people-sound. No voices raised in banter or questions asked about how your day went. No walking-around-the-house, eating-last-night’s-cold-pizza, switching-on-the-tv-and-lazing-on-the-couch sounds. No music, that fundamental instrument of communication, relaxation and social connection. No-one else is here, and the lack of human sound is bringing that home to me.

Sometimes I’ll write my blog with music on, sometimes without. The radio, a new album, YouTube, a random tune hummed aloud. Sometimes my better half will be playing games on the computer next to me, or practising guitar, or suggesting cool articles to read. I almost always blog from home, usually in the evening, and whether or not he’s here right there and then he influences me. I’m tuned in to what he’s doing, wherever he is in the house. Or I’m listening out for the car to pull into the garage and the front door to open with a swish of the screen and a click of the key.

But my better half isn’t home at the moment. He’s gone away for work for three months. And without him here, my world is a much, much quieter place. I’m not sure whether I can concentrate better with or without the sound of him, and the sounds he brings into my world. The house is quiet without the chatter of two people who have nothing and everything to say to each other, who just want to hear another person’s voice, who are happy just to be in each others’ presence, whatever we’re doing. I don’t even have any pets to harass for love, unless you count the houseplant that hasn’t quite died over winter.

Some people say sound is therapeutic. Even necessary. It’s certainly an important facet of everyday life that gives us our multi-layered view of our environment. I’m glad that I’m not deaf, but I know that ordinarily I miss out on a lot of sounds because my brain just doesn’t process it all. It doesn’t need to. But this lack of, shall we say, noise, is a little disconcerting. I’m wearing a cloak of concentration to try to block out the environment, to block out the thought of noise, of the soft sound of feet padding up behind me, of how much I miss it. I don’t know how long I can go without having to turn on something louder than the mechanical hummings of the computers.

That emo insect is still croaking his song. Persistent little guy. Perhaps I can turn this into a Little Mermaid moment and gather all the animals into a singing number. Not a large orchestra or anything, but I guess the song would be “White Noise”.

 

 

 

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