What’s the Buzz? Archives 

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Below you will find archives of our previous What’s the Buzz? weekly discussion questions and some of the answers submitted.


Week of April 8, 2012

Week of April 1, 2012

Week of March 25, 2012

Week of March 19, 2012

Week of March 12, 2012

Week of March 5, 2012


WEEK OF APRIL 8 ….

Last week, a pro-business group called Ethical Oil exposed the international backing received by some Canadian charities with the intention of keeping the
Canadian oil sands out of production. They charged that such charities should not be receiving preferential tax treatment when they engage in political
activism designed to put Canada at a disadvantage vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

The just-released federal budget indicates agreement and promises such activities will be under scrutiny. Do you think organizations who hold charitable status, and thus a tax-free position, should be able to use funds for political purposes?

Your comments –

1. No. I think such activities are a blatant slap in the face to Canada and Canadians. Not only is it inviting the wolf at the door to come in, it is
taking away Canadian jobs and forcing us to buy what we can easily produce at home from outside sources who, once again, control the price we pay and the
supply.

2. If they can get operating funds from outside Canada, so much the better. Money we don’t have to give them.
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WEEK OF APRIL 1 ….

In the April issue of Agri Digest Online (page 5) is an article saying that Bill Gates has donated ‘more than $2 billion’ to support smallholder farmers worldwide since 2006.

What do you think is the responsibility of the very rich in helping to support the poor in the world and what sort of programs should they be most interested in?

Your comments –

1. The first step would be to pay a fair share of taxes in their own country instead of leaving the middle class to bear the brunt of social programs, which are usually the first cut when economics turn tough.

Step two should be based on the ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for life’ adage. Food aid is critical in times of emergency and to bridge the time between beginning a more self-directed program and getting it operational, but what is needed far more is for the poor in any country to have opportunity to support themselves. There are some very successful small-finance programs operating in the Third World, with surprising results.  A ‘welfare’ approach of endless hand-outs too often teaches that this is somehow owed on a permanent basis, and that people should not work for their own betterment. A sense of achievement is critical for long term sustainability.

I think Mr. Gates is on the right track. The latest report from WorldWatch says that there are about 500 million small farms in developing countries, yet those who work them are among the hungriest – 80 percent of the world’s hungry live in rural areas. Aiding these millions of small farms to become productive enough to feed local populations is vital. In such places, western style agriculture is not feasible and should not be forced on them. Local problems are best cured with local answers. Teach them to ‘fish’ and provide the tools so they can do so – their way.

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WEEK OF MARCH 25 ….

The African Union, backed by the United States, has put together a 5,000-strong military force to hunt down fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, accused of terrorizing northern Uganda for two decades. Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. A video about Kony posted on YouTube by a California film-maker has been viewed by tens of millions of people, promoted on Twitter and endorsed by major Hollywood celebrities.
While no one argues that such criminals can be allowed to continue their depredations, what effect do you feel this kind of news has on perceptions of Africa and Africans?

Your comments –
As the Executive Director for Villages Connected, I am indignant about the Kony 2012 campaign. I see it as a flawed approach to put the focus on Kony ahead and above of everything else. I say this because our organization works at the grassroots in a community called Fort Portal, Uganda and what I have experienced there leads me to different conclusions.

If the Kony 2012 campaign is a success, and somehow Kony is captured or killed, will it then be mission accomplished for the millions that participated in the campaign? Will they celebrate? After all, the evildoer is gone and now everyone can live happily ever after. Wrong!

The hunt for Kony diverts the attention from the real problem in Africa: inequality.

The root cause is that poor villagers are vulnerable economically and can be so easily exploited. Many cannot even afford mosquito nets to protect themselves from malaria – which has killed many more people than Kony has. The real enemy is the world turning a blind eye to the importance of investing in Africa as a way to turn inequality on its head.

Supporting businesses that build strong economies give the power to the people to protect themselves socially and economically from ‘Konys’ and malaria-mosquitoes.

Too many times, Western organizations go to Africa to find problems. People start organizations to address these problems, then sensationalize them to spread the word to millions of people to raise funds. What is the result? a million negative messages about Africa being war-torn, emaciated, helpless.

Elsewhere in the world opportunities attract investors. The worlds economic system is driven by investors – if these investors don’t have confidence that a business exists in a stable environment and can flourish, guess what, they won’t invest. Messages about the problems of Africa do not give a picture to attract investors for sure. However, this is not the reality for most of Africa, and definitely not in Uganda where Kony and his cronies actually left years ago.

While we don’t see it, there are countless everyday people seizing opportunities, starting businesses, developing new techniques, giving rise to new products. We may not hear about people working hard to show they have products to sell, but they are many! This message just isn’t communicated because everyday people don’t have millions of dollars to
launch marketing campaigns. Instead, they get food packages, donations to band-aid the real issues, and now – millions of dollars spent on a marketing initiative to make a warlord famous! Kony has killed 60,000 kids. Economic equality is killing millions and will continue to do so unless we stand up and create a real victory over inequality.

We need to invest in the countless viable African businesses – big and small – so that everyday Africans can grow their local economies. They will then be able to protect themselves socially and economically and become less vulnerable to the Konys of the world.

It really saddens me that millions of dollars will make a criminal famous, when millions of people in Uganda and a billion people in Africa could radically change their long-term economic well-being – and by default, the negative perceptions of Africa – with a fraction of that money.

In our work at Villages Connected, we invest in businesses, share stories of the everyday opportunities. Our work creates an environment that could lead to a prosperous future for at least 200,000 people in Fort Portal alone. Yet it is the people, the businesses, the opportunities for investment that have center stage in making the real difference. Imagine the possibilities if our approach was replicated elsewhere? What I know from my experience is this: investing in communities and bearing witness to the potential – this is the solution.

Villages Connected International is a registered non-profit that combines the tools of media, marketing and micro-finance to unlock the potential of global and local values-based partnerships. Check us out on http://www.villagesconnected.org.

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WEEK OF MARCH 19 …
Honey bees are dying off in huge numbers, putting pollination of food crops on the list of endangered enterprises. Scientists are discovering a host of elements that affect bees negatively and a major one is insecticides.

Recently, studies on a system of protecting seed at planting time by coating it with talcum powder laced with insecticide has been shown to be lethal to honey bees. Only 30 seconds exposure to the dust thrown into the air during seeding operations was needed to kill the bees.

How could testing and regulation of agricultural chemicals and delivery systems be hanged to protect honey bees and other beneficial insects?

Your comments –
1. I keep hearing that the only research being done on new chemicals is by the companies producing them. If this is true, it is hardly surprising that we have a major problem. Research MUST be open to parallel testing by scientists that are not associated with the chemical companies. And regulatory agencies must be far stricter in their requirements before clearing new products or ways of applying them.

2. We have to remember that there is another side to this issue, that of the farmers who are inadvertently applying the chemicals in a way that is detrimental to honey bees. Simply cutting off their ability to protect their own crops won’t answer. Farmers who use chemicals on their crops need to be brought into the discussion so they are aware of ALL the issues, and be part of a solution that answers the needs of both sides – products and
application methods that are truly safe for bees yet protect the crops
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WEEK OF MARCH 12 …
Columnist Gwyn Morgan opined last week that Canada’s universities rank second worst in turning out graduates able to find “high skill level” employment. A Chamber of Commerce report of a “desperate labour shortage” turned out to be “Canada’s skills shortage” and called on universities to ” “connect education and employment”.

Do you feel our universities are providing highly skilled, employable workers that fit today’s business needs? If not, what needs to change?

Your comments –
1. At the speed things change these days, it seems an impossible demand for universities to anticipate what might be needed throughout the working lives of their students. So their role is probably more basic –teach understanding of the field as it is currently known (the
underpinning of the degree) but add and focus on the study of how to think ‘outside the box’ so students will have the tools they need to be innovative. The computer age grew with very young people, some not even in high school yet, who were not hemmed in by traditional courses of study. What is so different about the way they think? Can it be taught?

2. This problem is not limited to universities. It starts in elementary school, where traditional teaching ‘turns off’ so many young students. In tests where each student was supplied with an iPod, interest in school and grade averages have jumped dramatically. Using tools that kids enjoy using means they will use them far better and more regularly, and accessto vast amounts of information on any given subject can’t help but improve both their interest and abilities. If such a simple change in teaching methods can have this kind of effect, it seems obvious that innovation in teaching methods is at the crux.

3. Anyone in the teaching field, from kindergarten through university, should be subject to ‘refresher courses’ at least every five years. The refresher courses should focus on understanding of the thinking/learning process and ways to optimize it. The worst teachers are those who can’t be bothered to work out what makes their students tick, and any with
this attitude should be weeded out. Teachers at all levels MUST have an obsession for opening doors for their students.
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WEEK OF MARCH 5 …
There is much talk lately about trade deals and export priorities for Canada. Are we helping or hurting ourselves in the rush to make deals like the EU-Canada ‘Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)’?

Your comments –
1. I’m quite sure the $8.5 million and $340,00 orders can be broken up or otherwise rendered under those limits so the impact needn’t be huge. And foreign bidders on construction projects would be more likely to hire local workers than import large teams from their home countries. The benefit could far outweigh the cost to Canada.

2. The important thing will be for Canada to negotiate from a position of strength and not give way at the first whisper of opposition as it usually does. Mr. Harper, are you listening? Canada has a very poor reputation is that department and needs to change its attitude.

3. Sadly, history shows us that the most common result of large international deals such as this is that there are a few major winners and a lot of major losers. The entire system needs to change, and be required to provide stability to all those who are negatively impacted.

4. I agree with the threats to municipalities. The only thing that might be said in defense is that if Europeans get access to Canada’s markets, then surely our companies will gain access to theirs. There could be a discrepancy in the number of companies and/or amount of interest between Canada and Europe. Still, it will bear watching. I’m sure the good people of Thunder Bay, Ontario, home of Bombardier street car works, are watching it unfold with some trepidation
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