I want to share with you how an ancient and unique philosophy from Madagascar just might be able to help out some political knuckleheads over in the backwards bureaucracy of Missouri. The scopes monkey trial might be closing in on 90 years behind us, yet the debate over evolution in our schools rages on. Most pathetically, and recently, in good ol' Missouri, USA. Missouri's House Bill 1472, which would essentially require schools to notify parents prior to the teaching of evolution content in the classroom, so that parents could 'opt-out' of their children's education.
The future of civic education may just lie in the past - the deep past that is. Here at the PEAR Lab we are hard at work weaving a new thread within the acclaimed civics curriculum Project Citizen - to enable to students to explore public policy issues through the lens of Big History. Let me briefly review Why we must do this, How we plan to get it done, and finally, What it is looking like.
This year, the PEAR Lab is laser-focused on our on-going search for superorganisms within the schools and classrooms of Toliara, the capital city of Southwestern Madagascar. In my first writing on the subject - it might seem to many readers that my claim is prescriptive; that finding such educational superorganisms represents an unambiguous moral positive. This is far from the case - and as I describe below - ambiguity is really the name of the game in this emerging branch of human ecology.
As I watched the sun set from my balcony last night, a mysteriously booming bass speaker washed the beach in a lively party atmosphere. Local teens had organized an impromptu game of football; naked Malagasy children took turns flipping off each others shoulders into the public waters comprising Toliara’s harbor; and couples in love strolled hand in hand along the rocky shoreline. All simply enjoying the glowing day’s end by sharing this beautiful moment together.
I urge the government of Enugu State to act immediately and prevent the looming epidemic in Nanchi and the surrounding communities. According to an 8 minute video circulating on the internet, miracle seekers are trooping in their hundreds to this village to bath, swim in the so called mystery lake. The video reveals disgusting images of people diving, swimming, bathing and fetching dirty, stinking water from this lake in an apparent quest for miracles. Personally I wonder if this is a ‘miracle quest’ to live or to die.
Jim O’Neill’s high profile prediction on Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey (the “MINTs”) as future economic giants has caused quite a stir in the media. Over the next few weeks IDG Connect will be looking at these countries in a bit more detail. Kathryn Cave investigates Nigeria.
Every year, tens of thousands of international tourists and researchers descend into the wilds of Madagascar in search of the rarest of the rare organisms on earth. Lemurs, lizards, and even lacewings are just some of the hundreds of endemic species making the island a critical global biodiversity hot spot. While I love spending time in the natural lands of the countryside, these are not the important organisms that I am seeking. I am searching for superorganisms.
There is a great problem brewing in Ghana – What to do with all the witches? The government has decided to eradicate witchcraft. The plan is to close down the safe camps where those accused of witchcraft fled to get away from their accusers. The victims are to be sent back to their accusers who will kill them in all likelihood.
The United Nations should use the visit to Ghana of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Ms Gulnara Shahinian to shine international light on the menace of witch hunting in the country and in other parts of sub Saharan Africa. Ms Gulnara Shahinian is scheduled to visit Ghana from 22 to 29 November 2013.
During a recent weekend, I re-watched the movie Blood Diamonds (2007), an advocacy-entertainment movie trying to raise awareness about the problem of natural resources being used to finance horrific African wars. As illustrated in Blood, conflict diamonds were used to finance a civil war in Sierra Leone. While the movie is heavy flawed, the message is still important: the mining and exploitation of natural resources is creating havoc throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
This is another reason why you should raise your voice in protest against Pastor Enoch Adeboye’s planned tour of the Pacific in November. We need to end witch hunting around the globe. Witch persecution ended in Europe and most parts of western world centuries ago. But this violent campaign continues in many regions of the world mainly due to the activities of some Christian churches, pastors and other religious actors.
WHEN superstitious beliefs go unchallenged, they sometimes take very bizarre forms. Sometimes they are regarded as “science” and promoted openly and confidently as if they are based on facts and evidence.
When Leo Igwe was a child living in Nigeria, he saw his father beaten after being accused of witchcraft. Accusations of witch craft run rampant in many parts of western Africa, and Igwe has made it his life’s work to bring attention to the problem.
A recent report by the BBC reveals a threatening dimension of witchcraft belief in Chad. This time, people are not banishing alleged witches to camps as in Ghana, or driving ‘child witches’ to the streets as in Angola, Nigeria or in Congo DRC.
Witchcraft came about in the course of attempts by human beings to make sense of the world, to give meaning to their lives, to provide explanations to events and happenings in the world. Witchcraft is our creation and invention. Witchcraft is our idea. Witchcraft is actually our –human-craft, not the witch’s craft. But human creations can be misinformed and mistaken, human inventions can be misused and turned into weapons to tyrannize over the lives of people, or be used as tools of oppression, abuse and exploitation of vulnerable members of the population.
Recently, ritual killing sparked public anger and protest in this central African state after mutilated body parts washed up on the beaches. In May, a local politician was arrested and questioned by the police in connection with the ritual killing of a 12 year old girl.The politician was summoned after a man, who was tried and convicted for the murder, implicated him. The man said the politician commissioned him to carry out the killing. But the lawmaker denied the accusation.
Belief in ‘witch-gun’ is common among the peoples of Guinea and Sierra Leone. It is not clear how they came about this superstitious notion. But the belief is deep rooted. In fact there are as many conceptions of witch- gun as there are believers. One figure whose notion of a ‘witch gun’ stands out is the National President of Sierra Leone Indigenous Traditional Healers Union, ‘Dr’. Alhaji Suliaman Kabba. He said “The earliest and deadliest type of witch gun is made out of the husk from rice, but today’s witch guns are made out of gun powder while others are made out of lead. In fact the type of witch gun bullet that is most frequently removed when people are shot is the lead.”
“That’s the problem with the Malagasy people” my biology student, Etienne, explained to me in response to hearing about the recent theft of seven new computers in our neighboring psychology department. Etienne isn’t in any of my classes, but many students across our small institution are terribly upset by the loss of this scarce resource. These seven computers were to be shared by over 75 students, and now there are none.
Recently the IEET has begun a collaboration with Dustin Eirdosh, who is currently serving as the Visiting Assistant Professor in Social and Evolutionary Neuropsychology at the University of Toliara, a unique biological and human sciences institution in the Atsimo Andrefana (southwestern) region of Madagascar. Dr. Eirdosh will serve as the coordinator for the Madagascar branch of the IEET Africa Futures Project (AFP).
The promotion of growth through increased intra-trade and deeper regional economic integration hold much promise in the Southern African region. In particular, with the mixed economies of low and medium income countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC), regional integration offers tangible possibilities to leverage and extend economic comparative advantage at a regional level in ways not accessible through national programs.
International trade has recovered since the economic crisis of 2008-2009 which initially resulted in a worldwide slump in demand and in the liquidity that fuels the movement of goods and services across borders. However, despite this global incremental recovery, slow output growth, high unemployment and economic uncertainty persist across the European Union, while other developed markets have struggled to return to their pre-crisis highs.
Witchcraft suspicion is ubiquitous in Ghana, a deeply pervasive social reality simmering under the social surface. An unexpected death, sudden disease or misfortune trigger suspicions. Suspicion murmurs into accusation. Accusations can justify exile or death at the hands of a mob.
Madagascar is an island known the world over for it’s unique evolutionary pathway. A pathway fated early on from it’s isolated location in the Indian ocean conspiring with it’s natural geological diversity to yield an unimaginably endemic radiation of plant and animalian diversity. Yet this diversity was ‘fated’, as it were, by situational happenstance - not conscious intent. Then, some two-thousand years ago - waves of a species with a most curious cranium began to land on these bleeding red shores.
I just concluded a week long stay in Gnani ‘witch’ camp as part of my field work in the region. Gnani Tindan, as it is locally known, is one of those safe spaces where alleged witches and wizards fleeing persecution or execution can find refuge. Other ‘witch’camps exist in Kukuo, Gushegu, Nabule, Kpatinga and Gambaga. Witch camp is a traditional mechanism for containing and resolving witchcraft related crises in the region. In local communities, expelling an alleged witch or wizard is still currently observed as a traditional law and practice, as a measure to maintain social peace and order. One special feature of Gnani Tindan is that it has male refugees. Yes, it is a ‘witch’ camp with alleged wizards. Most of the men are there with their wives and children. They have literally turned the Gnani camp into a home.
The structure of many African economies is unbalanced and unable to deliver labor intensive and inclusive growth. Most African economies are characterized by both excessive dependence on export revenues from a few commodities and external financial flows (FDI, aid and remittances) and a weak industrial base and predominance of subsistence agriculture.
Agriculture remains at the center of the African continent’s socio-economic development. It contributes a third of Africa’s total GDP, albeit with regional diversities driven by differences in weather and climatic conditions, the economic value of agricultural products, and the importance of other resources.
In total, Africa’s growth rate has averaged well above 5% in the past decade, after 20 difficult years of flat and often negative growth in several countries. The challenge for the continent in the coming years is whether Africa will be able to maintain these impressive growth rates, and whether future growth will be built on the types of productivity enhancements that are associated with rising living standards.
The issue of employment has grown in prominence on national and global development agendas in recent times, given its socio-economic and political implications. Though the employment challenge has its own dimensions, it scourges countries worldwide regardless of their stage of socio-economic development. Thus, employment is currently a global policy issue.
The Positive Education Action-Research (PEAR)Laboratory!Our Lab is a most unique endeavor for our humble institution. An international applied research collaboration - our aim is simple: to develop, implement, and assess the functioning of Positive Psychology within educational settings across Madagascar. We want to empirically explore - and maximize - the ways that Schools contribute to Human flourishing; and we want to start offering our findings to the global scientific community. We want to work in a way that simultaneously transcends and rigorously values scientific disciplines. We want to explore the Big History and Future of Human Flourishing in Madagascar!