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GLOBAL INSIGHTS MAGAZINE
Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in this issue? SPECIAL DOUBLE E-EDITION 2020 SEE MORE @ WWW.GLOBAL-GENEVA.COM
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Pandemics, climate change and UN reform
FROM THE FIELD
Kurdistan: After such knowledge what forgiveness
FROM THE FIELD Coronavirus stories: Letter from London
FROM THE FIELD
22 | Korea's 'Tienanmen' and world memory
24 | Hong Kong's dehumanitarianism
an urgent appeal for international mediation
POETRY In the Mouth of the Wolf
One Man's War for Human Dignity: The Extraordinary Life of Kevin Boyle
FROM THE FIELD
Angola: Demining key to conversation plans
BOOK EXCERPT "Are You With Me? Kevin Boyle and the Rise of the Human Rights Movement"
FROM THE AUTHOR Switzerland's Prisoners of War during the two world wars and beyond
LETTER FROM FLORIDA
36 | Citizens and Scientists
Battle Invasive Species
40 CYBER MONSTERS
Time to do something about social media perverting our kids
The Capital of Civilization Brexit, populism and the 150th anniversary of the Siege of Paris
"Mindf*ck": Adventure with the Cambridge terminator
You're in the army now:
56 | An expat recruit's experience
in Switzerland's militia
FROM THE FIELD
Oceanus to Oceans The Sea Affect All Things
60 | Mountain Biking Blasts in the Lake Geneva & Mont Blanc Region
Made in the U.S.A:
68 | Godard spills the beans on
63 | Best Mountain Biking location near Geneva
politics and atrocity
CARTOONISTS Zunar: Malaysia's top cartoonist "How can I be neutral?"
Made in the U.S.A:
68 | Godard spills the beans on
politics and atrocity
FROM THE FIELD Village of the Forgetful: A film-maker's journey
The Continuing Battle
74 | for Okinawa
Dinner with Graham Greene
Pangolin's and Pandemics:
80 | Digging for the root of COVID-19
Chronic diseases are the real pandenmic:
84 | Join the healthy good movement
Bangkok is Sinking:
86 | But so are other Southeast Asian megacities
FROM THE FIELD Rural Rock Queen, Oasis and the Ridge Farm Story
Pierre Michel Virot: Seeing the world by looking for it
LETTER FROM THE EDITORS
Pandemics, climate change and UN reform
If we are to learn any real lessons, there has to be a fully independent and outside investigation as soon as possible into the Wuhan virus and not - as the Chinese would prefer - once the crisis is over. Linked to this is the urgent need for effective reform of the United Nations, including an end to political manipulation by member states. But now is also the time to embrace drastic new approaches as part of a long-term two-front war for survival against pandemics and climate change.
THESE PAST FEW MONTHS OF COVID-19 have proven both brutal and sobering. But the lessons are clear. The threat of a global pandemic has been with us for at least a decade, and yet we failed to respond. As scientist-explorer Paul Mayewski and international lawyer Charles Norchi point out in this issue, we are facing twin crises, COVID-19 and climate change. Even with the discovery of an effective vaccine, our survival now depends on a complete overhaul of our social and economic policies. We owe this to the younger generations, who must now assume the responsibility for dealing with – and hopefully fixing - the failed and often selfish approaches that many of the rich and powerful have imposed on our planet. Not only has the Age of Pandemics just begun, but global warming and other corrosive climatic factors are rapidly leading us to the brink. We may be able to turn things around, but only just. Much will depend on what we do over the next 10 to 15 years. Beyond that, it may be too late. As Swiss journalist Karin Wenger notes in her article on the sinking of Bangkok and other megacities in southeast Asia, huge portions of these urban conglomerations with tens of millions of people can expect to be under water by 2050.
ty of China (CPP), which has been busy interning over a million Muslims in concentration camps and cracking down on dissent in Hong Kong, sought to stifle the truth behind the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Only when it was too late to prevent contamination beyond its borders did it finally act by informing the international community that, whoops… Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson also acted too late - and with ignorance. He embraced an unproven ‘herd immunity’ approach that led his nation to a disastrous explosion of cases and deaths. The fact that Johnson found himself infected by the coronavirus sobered him up like a contrite schoolboy. Not only was he obliged to recognize the importance of a dedicated National Health Service (an institution he had previously scathingly criticized) with its heroic mix of British and foreign (yes, foreign) doctors and nurses on the frontline, but also that no government has the right to simply write off its more vulnerable citizens. As soon emerged, the coronavirus was infecting – and killing – victims from all age groups, including children. Furthermore, Johnson’s argument of national greatness outside the EU suddenly sounded incredibly out of touch.
WHAT LESSONS FROM CORONAVIRUS?
NEGATING SCIENCE IN FAVOUR OF POLITICS
The tragedy behind the coronavirus is that most countries – and some key institutions such as the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta – dropped the ball. Italy and then Spain found themselves completely on their own, while the European Union failed to respond. (See our Coronavirus Stories both in this edition and online) Rather than support each other in their battle against a common enemy, almost every member state was more concerned for itself. The EU eventually caught up, but had initially failed to define its purpose through decisive action, inspired leadership and global collaboration. As COVID-19 has demonstrated, self-centred, single-minded populism doesn’t help. The most staggering lack of leadership lies with those in charge of China, the United States, Britain and Brazil. The Communist Par-
Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro is another one of those politicians who has preferred to negate science at the cost of his own people, including the indigenous tribes of the Amazon who risk decimation by the spread of this virus from the outside. Brazil now ranks as one of the planet’s worst affected nations. And yet, Bolsonaro has remained in denial maintaining that COVID-19 is little different from the ordinary flu and that social distancing and other precautions are not required. Well in the forefront with his lack of responsibility and compassion lies U.S. President Donald Trump, another science denier who indulges in dangerous quackery. His abuse of the free press and the American Constitution coupled with his inability to lead has arguably contributed to the death of nearly 100,000 human beings in the United States. Furthermore, as some economists are
predicting, his ignorance may already have forfeited the role of the United States as a world power of example. There is a reason why The Lancet, one the world’s leading medical journals, condemned Trump for chipping away at the CDC’s capacity to combat infectious diseases. This included the withdrawal of the CDC’s collaborative research team from China in the summer of 2019 leaving a highly dangerous intelligence vacuum. The Lancet further notes that the White House has subverted the Atlanta-based institution even more over the past months, including its proposed virus guidelines. “These actions have undermined the CDC's leadership and its work during the COVID-19 pandemic,” declared the 16 May 2020 editorial. It also criticized Trump for withholding funding from WHO before finally proposing that Americans vote for a new president “who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics.”
TIME TO END POLITICAL MANIPULATION OF WHO – AND THE UN In times like this, there has to be responsible, global leadership. One vehicle for this should be the United Nations, including WHO. There is much to criticise within the UN, but much of this is due to the manner with which this successor to the League of Nations was set up after World War II. It can only be as good as the member states allow. Sadly, far too many governments see the UN as their playing field for political manipulation rather than
serving in the public interest. Banal as it may seem, it’s time to give the UN back to the people it claims to represent, not to the regimes that seek to run it. The reality is that WHO still ranks as the only international organization capable of coordinating proper global responses to health emergencies. It has proven this with the eradication of smallpox in 1980 and its progress in countering malaria. The same goes for other parts of the UN. Even if not always successful, the UN plays a critical role for dealing with issues such as climate change, wars and humanitarian crises such as Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, Sudan, Haiti…As is often maintained, if the UN did not exist, we’d have to reinvent it. Some of the recent criticism of WHO regarding its fumbling of the Wuhan virus may prove fully justified once an independent and fully transparent outside investigation, including journalists from The Lancet and other informed press, has been undertaken. This is vital if such an inquiry is to credibly serve in the public interest. Events behind COVID-19 no longer make it just a health crisis, but a political one too. Politicians and governments worldwide stand to rise or fall as a result of their handling (or mishandling) of the pandemic. Critical, too, is that such an investigation examine CCP efforts at political bullying resulting in a cowing of WHO, such as the alleged sidelining of Taiwan’s requests for information about the virus at the end of December 2019 or the refusal of a senior WHO official to respond to a reporter’s question about the island state. But it must also explore the failed roles of governments, including
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR the United States. While the Trump administration has made WHO’s supposed connivance with China a key issue, it has done exactly the same by seeking to politically ostracize it by withholding funds.
THE UN SHOULD BE “FOR THE PEOPLE, AND BY THE PEOPLE” In 2006, Global Geneva editor Edward Girardet was asked by Jens Stoltenberg, head of NATO but then Prime Minister of Norway, to take part as outside writer in a “high level” UN reform process. There have been many UN reform initiatives, yet probably one of the biggest drawbacks has always been that they tend to be government or UN “blue ribbon” rather than including civil society. And this despite Stoltenberg’s assertion at the time that the proposed reform, which was passed by the General Assembly in autumn 2006, should lead to a UN “for the people, and by the people”. A number of positive proposals did emerge from the 2006 process co-chaired by Norway, Pakistan and Mozambique. These included the “One UN” approach designed to make all UN agencies fall in line with each other in order to avoid costly and often pointless replication of projects and budgets. Much has been since achieved, but jealousies and turf wars still abound. And there remains a lot of wastage or lack of vision as noted by Arthur Wood in his piece on impact funding. One of the most important suggestions, however, was that all UN appointments should be non-political and based instead on a more corporate approach of meritocracy. In other words, find the best person possible for the job regardless of political affiliation or national quotas. After all, those working for the UN should no longer be in hock with their governments. Their commitment should be to the common good of the planet and its inhabitants. Yet within days, it was back to business as usual with the pragmatic concept of meritocracy tossed back into the drawer. Governments continued to lobby – if not threaten – to have their own choices placed in positions of influence. And it did not matter whether they were competent or not. The Chinese, Japanese, Danes, Germans, Swedes, French, Canadians, Koreans, Saudis… (the list goes on, but usually the ones with money and influence) all push for their candidates in senior positions. Typically, the heads of UNICEF and the World Food Programme are regarded as American positions; while OCHA belongs to the British and the head of the UN office in Geneva is a Soviet (now Russian). China, too, holds a number of key director roles – all of them CCP members.
EVERYONE KNOWS WHAT'S GOING ON, BUT THE UN IS TOO AFRAID TO COUNTER Officially, the UN has refused comment on such practices. However, a number of senior UN officials have privately acknowledged that governments - often without subtlety position their choices wherever they can in order to further their influence within the UN system. Without embracing the Trumpean agenda, one senior UN official in New York
noted that China is doing “everything possible” to impose its views on the WHO and UN. “Everyone knows that this is going on, and yet the UN is too afraid to counter such pressure,” the official said. Sometimes, such political choices are excellent; yet often they are little more than ‘fillers’ or part of administrative ‘dumping’ with ineffective appointees who do not really understand the job. Or they use their new positions to enhance their own careers with blatant disregard of what is best for the UN. One UN chief misused travel funds in a bid to promote himself as a presidential candidate in his home country. As one senior UN official in Geneva put it: “You cannot believe the mediocrity that the member states often promote in order to get their own man – or woman – into an influential slot. It’s disgraceful and does nothing good for the UN.” Another UN manager noted: “It’s time to focus on real professionals…if not, the UN will simply dissolve into mediocrity.” The real tragedy is that many job applications draw excellent potential candidates with proven track records both from within and outside the UN. And yet, non-transparent and donor-dominated interview boards will not accept them because of political preferences. This is part of the criticism levelled against WHO’s Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, an Ethiopian who is now the face of COVID-19 to the world. One of several shortlisted candidates, which included the UK's David Nabarro, who is now WHO's special envoy for the pandemic, Tedros was appointed in May, 2017 and this despite his alleged coverup as Ethiopia's Minister of Health of three cholera outbreaks between 2006 and 2011. As pointed out by sources within WHO, this was largely the result of backroom politicking, including by African Union. The Chinese, who have invested massively in Africa, also lobbied strongly for Tedros. So he owes major political payback. Shortly after assuming office, Tedros named former Zimbawean dictator Robert Mugabe – another Chinese favourite - as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador. Tedros was quickly forced to withdraw the corrupt ex-politician following protests by much of the western world. So in the Age of Pandemics, why not push for less politicization and genuine effectiveness within the UN in the interests of “the people” rather than regimes? At the 73rd annual World Health Assembly (held virtually in Geneva 18-19 May, 2022), Taiwan, which has one of the planet’s best records for dealing with COVID-19, was not allowed to attend, primarily because of extreme pressure by Beijing and its increasingly criticized “One China” policy, which would be better for the world if ditched. According to the rules, Tedros could have included Taiwan citing public interest. And not just because it has a population of over 23 million (somewhat less than Australia) with crucial lessons to share with the rest of the world. It will indeed be ironic if Trump's grandstanding removes some of the UN's weakest leaders while his America First approach opens the way for more idealistic nations to install a different, visionary, practical and inspirational kind of UN governance.
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FROM THE FIELD
After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Jon Randal
© Don McCULLIN (Contact Press Images)
The Kurds may be the invisible people of the Syrian civil war and even of Middle East contemporary history. Ever since the late 1800s, they have pushed for their own state. This almost happened with the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I but under harsh pressure by the Turks, the British and French dropped their initial plans to create a Kurdistan. Instead, they divided Kurdish lands amongst Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. A short-lived Kurdish kingdom emerged in Iraq in 1924, but was forcefully put down by the Iraqis with British help. Today, not even the Human Rights Council in Geneva bothered to mention the Kurds by name in its 2019 report, though the International Commission of Inquiry fully documents the kidnappings, extortions, bombings and interrogations carried out by unidentified armed groups and Turkish officers. Today, even with COVID-19, veteran foreign correspondent and author Jonathan Randal, one of the world’s leading specialists on Kurdistan, has not forgotten them. AS PERHAPS IS FITTING IN MY SUNSET YEARS, I am updating a book I published in 1997 on the Kurds when virtually no one in the United States had any idea who they were or what role the United States had played – and would play in their lives and theirs in ours. At the time, I was taken to task for using a quote from a T.S. Eliot poem, After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness? as an overly pretentious literary title. But it accurately reflected – and still reflects – the Kurds’ dilemma. The book chronicled Western, and especially U.S., use and abuse in the 20th century of the Kurds, a mainly mountainous people, whose misfortune it has been to yearn for a country of their own in contiguous territory inside authoritarian and highly centralized Middle Eastern states, principally Iran, Iraq, Syria and especially Turkey. This abuse continues in the 21st century.
THE KURDS: MIRACULOUSLY RESILIENT DESPITE RECURRING DEFEAT AND TREACHERY I say fitting because my involvement with the Kurds began as a reporter’s late career indulgence after decades of covering “little” wars, disturbances, and crises that often came close to setting off World War Three, yet luckily never quite did so. Call my attachment to the Kurds a last fling with adventure as a foreign correspondent and author, which jolted into high gear with the first President George Bush’s war to remove Saddam Hussein’s army from Iraq’s conquest of Kuwait in August, 1990. In any event, my involvement with the Kurds proved long-lasting, more so than with other Third World upheavals I have covered as a reporter over a half century. I often wonder why I keep risking my neck with the Kurds (and I should make clear, not for them). The best answer I’ve come up with is that the Kurds, whatever their manifold failings, have a healthy sense of humour. They are also miraculously resilient despite a seemingly
genetic disposition for recurring defeat and treachery. But I also owe my life to them. So do the dozen other Western journalists, including Don McCullen, whom I had brought into Kurdistan at this time, and whose powerful photographs feature in this piece. Iraq helicopter gunships oddly tolerated by Washington after Saddam’s surrender and withdrawal from Kuwait in 1991, four months after his invasion, quickly crumbled Kurdish resistance. Hundreds of thousands of refugees clogged the roads heading for safety in the wintery Zagros mountains. In the midst of chaos, Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani personally commandeered pickups, which brought us to a rare unmined path across the Zagros enabling us to walk six hours to safety in Turkey.
NO GUERRILLA COMMANDER HAS EVER TAKEN THE TIME TO SAVE JOURNALISTS’ SKINS Sure, our stories alerted public opinion to the plight of Kurds and eventually forced an initially indifferent U.S. president to send troops to persuade refugees to go home under the protection of the Western air umbrella. Still, never before – or since – in my experience has a rebel leader in such dire circumstances taken the time to save journalists’ skins. And I must confess only the Kurds still treat me as minor royalty during infrequent visits as a reward for sticking with them in very bad times. So, with Turkey’s recent military incursion (6 October, 2019) into northern Syria in an effort to thwart the Kurdish militias there coupled with Washington’s renewed abandonment, I feel duty-bound to chronicle what I fear is turning out to be a new nadir in their long struggle for nationhood. I should have wished the Kurds a happier fate, and at times I did. But the American imperial recessional from the Middle East now is in full, if disorderly, swing as President Trump’s chaotic removal of military support for Syria’s Kurds has demonstrated. That partic-
FROM THE FIELD | Kurdistan: After such knowledge, what forgiveness?
ular unedifying episode should not have come as a surprise, for ominous signs were visible to the naked eye for almost a year. What now will happen to the far more numerous Iraqi Kurds next door? Since 1991 they have sheltered under U.S. military protection which now must be open to question. How would such an eventuality – indeed the nearly 30 years of U.S. presence – be remembered? As yet more American perfidy or as evidence of the Kurds’ inability to take advantage of that protection to establish durable institutions essential to guarantee the independent Kurdistan of their dreams? I won’t claim that updating my book is uplifting. But also let’s not forget that the Kurds were largely responsible for defeating the rapid Islamic State regimes in Syria, despite being completely different culturally from the people they liberated. So this needs to be remembered. I owe the Kurds at least that. Ever since various Middle Eastern governments have invoked Western notions of the modern centralized nation-state to crush repeated Kurdish revolts, leaguing together when necessary lest the restive Kurdish subjects succeed in organizing themselves across artificial political frontiers. For the Kurds were – and still are – the fourth largest group in the Middle East and, arguably, the prize losers. No one disputes that they are the world’s largest ethnic group without a state of their own. Such has been their various foreign rulers’ abiding fear of them that no reliable census has been conducted in decades…Outside inquiry has been discouraged. (Today, an estimated 30 million Kurds live
in the Middle East, including Turkey, with a further seven million elsewhere). Eternal outsiders, who in this century can only have marvelled at the wasted fortunes that the Arab world lavished on Palestinian nationalism, the Kurds are the Middle East’s essential poor boys. Deprived even of their own oil and kept on short rations in one state, their national dress banned in another, their language in still a third, their most basic human and civil rights denied to differing, but often extreme degrees at various times in various places, the Kurds have resisted assimilation with a constancy confounding their would-be masters. They have survived the first aerial bombing in the Third World, poison gas, the deliberate levelling of their rural society in Iraq, mass destruction of villages and forced deportation to the western cities of Turkey, and the assassination of their leaders in Iran. The Royal Air Force bombed Iraqi Kurds in January 1919 in what is believed to be the first use of air power to put down revolts: bombing was cheaper than garrisoning troops. Later that year, in Britain’s Third Afghan War, the RAF based in India bombed Afghan cities, forcing the emir, Amanullah Khan, to sue for peace. Winston Churchill, as Colonial Secretary in 1921, formally gave the RAF responsibility for maintaining law and order in the British-mandated parts of the Middle East. Among the officers who served in Iraq was Arthur Harris, known in World War II as ‘Bomber Harris’ for his ruthless championing of saturation bombing of German civilian and military targets.
Kurdish Uprising, Kurdish rebels during Iraqi tank attack, Kirkuk, Iraq, March 19, 1991 © Don McCULLIN (Contact Press Images)
Kurdish refugees heading north on foot towards the Turkish border. Iraq, March 1991. © Don McCULLIN (Contact Press Images)
KURDISTAN IS BLESSED – OR CURSED – BY WATER AND OIL Kurds living in Baghdad, Damascus, Istanbul or Tehran keep alive a secret Kurdish garden, nurturing it despite the homogenous erosion of life in these cosmopolitan capitals. A generation ago, a French journalistic colleague of mine was amazed at the determined Kurdishness of a young interpreter he met in wartime Iraqi Kurdistan who had been brought up in Baghdad and spoke little Kurdish. Despite the outward evidence, he insisted he felt Kurd, explaining: “There’s nothing I can do about it.” I myself have marvelled at the bedrock nationalism of young Turkish Kurds who speak, read, and write Turkish effortlessly but are prepared to die for a Kurdistan whose language they barely know. So, too, are Kurds as far away as Australia. History is said to be written by the victors, and that has meant the Kurds’ enemies. But thanks to their mountains and remoteness from the centres of imperial power in Constantinople and Tehran, Kurds have from time to time enjoyed a sense of freedom which has waxed and waned with the strength of their overlords. Before World War I, with the decline of the Ottoman Empire, where the overwhelming majority of Kurds then lived, notions of modern nationalism awakened both Kurds and Arabs, but the Kurds unquestionable craving for independence from alien rule was never matched by political gifts capable of overcoming the determination to keep them divided. In the Middle East their travail in this (20th) century alone remains unmatched even in a region given to
terror, treachery, and repression on a grand scale. The ‘modernizing’ handiwork that did such harm to the Kurds as often as not was carried out with the tolerant complicity of foreign powers, ranging from their immediate neighbours to Israel, Britain, and the United States. This international meddling has not been gratuitous. Kurdistan is blessed, or, as some Kurds maintain, cursed, by the parched Middle East’s major sources of water, and it has abundant oil as well. The Kurds’ almost unbroken record of revolt and punishment has also been unrivalled over the past century. Alas for the Kurds, so, too, is their lack of organization and effective leadership. In the age of the helicopter and modern counter-insurgency weapons, their favourite adage – “The Kurds have no friends but the mountains” – has lost much if not all of its age-old validity. For even the mountains no longer provide the protection that once earned Kurdistan its reputation as “the land of insolence.”
DRINKING TEA – AND WHISKY – WITH TURKISH TRIBAL LEADERS Over the years, I’ve walked in and out of Kurdistan’s Zagros Mountains, crossing borders without benefit of visa, passport, or armed guard in countryside so wild that three British journalists were murdered nearby for their money only days before one of my passages. I’ve trudged along highways with exhausted Kurdish refugees reduced to burying their children and grandparents by the roadside for fear of setting off landmines if they ventured further afield to provide a proper
FROM THE FIELD | Kurdistan: After such knowledge, what forgiveness?
sepulcher. I’ve also flown in helicopters through the jagged teeth of the snowcapped 12,000-foot mountains that form the Iraqi-Turkish border, effortlessly surveying some of the late 20th century’s most isolated real estate, discovering high plateaus, valleys of sheerfaced rock, and rushing white water, then following the meandering Tigris River through endless plains to Diyarbakir, the unofficial capital of Turkish Kurdistann. In Iraqi Kurdistan I’ve watched hawks, bustards and eagles ride the thermals high over scrub oak and bald hills and mountains, waiting to zero in on their prey. For my own good I’ve been forced by friendly Kurds to hire guards when travelling on Iraqi Kurdistan’s main roads – and I do that only during daylight. I’ve coughed dust and baked in 120 degree F (48.8 C) summers, and I’ve frozen alongside Kurds so destitute they were reduced to burning scavenged asphalt for heating only a few miles from some of the world’s richest oil fields. I’ve drunk tea as well as whiskey with Kurdish tribal leaders in Iraq and Iran, listened to Kurdish human rights activists under constant threat of death in Turkey, and talked politics with Kurds of every station elsewhere. In Iraq I’ve run into peasants harvesting thistles with odd implements designed in some dateless antiquity, talked wheat prices with tractor-owning farmers, commiserated with the urban middle class reduced to selling land, jewellery, silver, cars, radios, television sets, doors, beds, windows, homes to stay alive. I’ve cried listening to the stories of the wrecks of Kurdish lives, stories even more depressing than the intended lessons imparted by those who cause the endless ruins of thousands of small Kurdish villages, once the very essence of Kurdistan. I’ve been awakened at dawn in a cheap city hotel in Turkish Kurdistan by sustained shooting only a few hundred yards away, then watched Turkish security forces go through neighbourhood after neighbourhood with all the violent efficiency of colonial troops answerable to no one. I’ve trudged through winter snows along smugglers’ mountain paths to listen to the nationalist fervour beneath the relentlessly inculcated, half-baked Marxism of young, Turkish Kurds who would have died by the thousands for an independent Kurdish state. I have also come to understand the more limited goals of autonomy or federalism within existing borders, which Iranian and Iraqi Kurds have accepted after many shattered dreams and much destruction over many decades. I’ve argued with Kurds in Western hotels, in tents, in rudimentary shelters made of leafy branches, and on long drives in broken-down vehicles. Perhaps because of my age, I personally have never been treated with anything but respect, generosity and friendship, no matter how heated the arguments. I’ve often wondered at a peculiarly Kurdish mixture of forbearance and bloody-mindedness, especially when I recall a scene high up in the mountains during the very heavy snows of 1992.
Two busloads of Kurds coming from opposite directions met on the narrow road cleared by the region’s only snow plow. I was in a Land Rover. Neither bus would give way or back up. There was not enough room for a vehicle to get by. Minutes passed. Suddenly the passengers poured out into the snow and started pummelling one another, remembering, or feigning to remember, ancient slights. The fisticuffs showed no sign of abating and, like all self-respecting Kurds, the men were armed with Kalashnikovs. To control my fears of impending general slaughter, I finally took a shovel out of the car and dug out enough snow alongside the road to allow my vehicle and one bus to pass. I yelled at the Kurds in English that I was in a hurry. They understood not a word. I doubtless seemed quite mad to them, so much so, indeed, that they stopped abruptly and somewhat sheepishly, it seemed to me, climbed back into their buses. I directed traffic, guiding one bus into the spot I’d cleared while the other went on its way. The incident pleases me because for once a foreigner helped solve – rather than complicate – a Kurdish problem, albeit a minor one. It also illustrates why I suspect a rogue chromosome in Kurdish genetics causes what Indians, with their love for fancy words, would call: “fissiparous tendencies.” William Eagleton, a former U.S. ambassador and then special advisor to the State Department for Northern Iraq, warned that any period of repression by neighbouring states would only sustain a deep-seated hatred of Kurds and Kurdish nationalism. Eagleton’s importance is because he was an early American to get to know the Kurds and wrote the book on the Mahabad Republic. He also noted that the Kurds fighting with General Barzani during the 1960s in some cases were sustained by “little more than by the old Kurdish tradition of sher chaktira lo bakariya (fighting is better than idleness).” For their part, the Kurds, perhaps too pessimistically, would take Western abandonment for granted, if not now then down the road.”…Iraq and the Kurds, Eagleton said, represented “the Lebanon of the nineties” with all the weariness that long, violent, and messy conflict in the Levant can elicit…”
Journalist and author JONATHAN C. RANDAL was for many years a foreign correspondent for numerous publications, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. His work as a reporter primarily focused on war zones, including reporting from Vietnam, Eritrea, Iran, Afghanistan, Kurdistan, North Africa and Lebanon. Randal is also the author of four books, including ‘Osama: The Making of a Terrorist’ and ‘The Tragedy of Lebanon’, all of which variously chronicle his work as a journalist in these areas. His update of ‘After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness’ is expected to come out in 2020. SIR DON MCCULLIN is a world-renowned British photojournalist, who has covered conflicts, humanitarian crises and other related themes since 1959. He is particularly known for his exceptional war photography but has also focused on reporting the unemployed, downtrodden and improverished. More recently, he has covered the plight of children.
COVID-19 and climate change: the planet’s twin crises
Over the past several months, humanity has demonstrated an understandable obsession with the
COVID-19 pandemic. While other planetary concerns, such as the humanitarian response and con-
flict mediation, should not be ignored, the sudden emergence of the coronavirus has opened a twofront global war on climate change. As scientist and explorer Paul Mayewski and international lawyer Charles Norchi point out, both require an effective and purposeful engagement worldwide.
Paul Mayewski and Charles Norchi
ACROSS THE GLOBE, HUMANITY IS NOW CONFRONTING twin planetary crises: COVID-19 and climate change. The first was sudden – but not unexpected; the second has been in the making for generations. As a two-front war, they are both scientific realities and threaten human existence. Together, they require global response. No country can deal with these two crises on its own. There is nothing new about pandemics or, in many cases, epidemics. They have occurred many times in the past ranging from the Plague of Athens in 430 BC, which killed an estimated 100,000 people, and the Black Death in the 14th century which travelled from Asia to wipe out close to half the population in Eurasia and North Africa, or the ‘Spanish Flu,’ which erupted toward the end of World War I, causing up to 500 million people to be infected in Europe, Asia and North America. The Spanish Flu caused, overall, at least 50 million deaths, including a disastrous second wave of infections. But all this is little consolation today to the millions suffering the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19.
WHAT DO PANDEMICS AND CLIMATE CHANGE HAVE IN COMMON? Climate, on the other hand, has changed significantly in recent decades. Though it has impacted ecosystems and civilization throughout history, over the past 50 years we have been experiencing a dramatic humaninduced acceleration of global warming and other climatic impacts on our lives and planet. While many may not think climate change and disease are similar or even associated, both can evolve rapidly. Fast changes in climate, operating over one to five-year periods and referred to as “abrupt climate change”, have taken their toll on previously flourishing civilizations. The abrupt onset of drought, for example, contributed to the collapse of the Mesopotamian Empire (modern day Syria and Iraq) 4200 years ago. And in the 800s AD, it resulted in the demise of the Mayan Empire in Mesoamerica. Recent warming of the Arctic is the first abrupt climate change event of the modern era. It has already
had severe consequences for people and ecosystems across the polar regions. It has also altered the thermal balance from the North Pole to mid-latitudes triggering changes in atmospheric circulation that are manifested as the intensification of droughts, floods and storms impacting much of the Northern Hemisphere. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 7-8 million people die prematurely every year as a consequence of poor air quality. Pollutants such as lead, cadmium and small particulates (PM2.5), are all directly associated with greenhouse gas emissions. They degrade human and ecosystem health making us more susceptible to pandemics, such as COVID-19, because poor air quality, which increasingly affects megacities from Delhi to Beijing, leads to rising respiratory and cardiac distress as well as cancer. Climate change is also affecting vector-borne diseases, which are on the rise. Accounting for more than 17 per cent of all infectious illnesses, these are caused by parasites, bacteria or viruses and include Lyme, Triple E, Malaria and Dengue Fever. In addition, heat, drought, storms and general climate instability lead to more acute stress and displace communities further weakening humans and ecosystems. WHO has concluded that changes in climate are likely to lengthen the transmission seasons of such diseases. Climate changes can also alter their geographic range. For example, rising temperatures can lengthen seasons and expand the range of disease-carrying insects, such as malarial mosquitoes moving from Kenya’s lowlands to the higher altitude parts of the Rift Valley, or the spread of Zika-carrying mosquitoes in the United States. Deforestation, ocean warming and acidification also lead to ecosystem redistribution, species extinction, and food insecurity. With the planet increasingly out of balance, even more people are left in poor health and more susceptible to disease. Climate change not only intensifies the damage caused by COVID-19, but lessens the likelihood of understanding where, when and why such a disease will start in the future.
READ MORE ONLINE @ GLOBAL-GENEVA.COM
Coronavirus Stories: Letter from London
On the NHS Frontline with COVID fatigue Ana Waddington
As with all frontline medical personnel in Europe and elsewhere, dealing with coronavirus has been a never-ending ordeal with little respite. NHS frontline nurse Ana Waddington reflects on some of the strains with which she and her colleagues are obliged to deal on a daily basis - and some of the ways they cope.
WORKING IN HEALTHCARE IS NEVER EASY; but working through the Covid-19 pandemic takes all the usual stresses, strains and anxieties and amplifies them by a factor of ten. The mood in my Accident & Emergency (A&E) department at an east London hospital is highly emotional. Apart from the heavy case load, we are also affected by the uncertainty of COVID-19. This includes having to defer those personal plans and hopes that can help to keep you going in the ever-strained atmosphere of a hospital emergency department. Recently, a nurse I’d never met before broke down in our changing room because she had had to cancel a much-needed holiday break. “I really needed this holiday”, she said. “I’ve been saving up for a whole year”. Our most-used methods of coping have been stripped from us and we’re having to find different ways to manage. The fear of spreading the virus to others is particularly acute for healthcare workers. A friend texted me to say that she’s terrified that she could cause the death of family members. She’s constantly disinfecting surfaces and cleaning. And she’s not the only one. I’m not looking forward to the next water bill, given the amount of time I spend washing my clothes and showering. As medical staff we feel that we should be constantly working, permanently manning the barricades. A colleague told me she feels “helpless” on her days off: she wants to go back to the hospital to help out.
LIVING IN A DIFFERENT TIME ZONE Much has been written about night shift anxiety; the sense of isolation and disconnect from wider society that comes with working nights. In the current emergency, these feelings are more acute, and they are not limited to night work. Healthcare workers are living different lives to most people. It is like being in a different time zone or being a ghost in the normal world we inhabited until just recently. The world has turned into a Rorschach test and we’re seeing and experiencing things differently to everybody else. Nevertheless, the generosity of others is extremely precious in these times – the public demonstrations of support, such as the nightly applause and pot-banging in London, often move me to tears. We know that, as healthcare professionals, we’ll have to make difficult decisions that we haven’t had to make before. We have to break terrible news to a patient without any of their family being present or make agonising calls on access to ventilators. As a result, we run the risk of ‘moral injury’ – the psychological damage from being forced to violate one’s moral values.
GIVING A HUG OF COMFORT IS NO LONGER AN OPTION The decisions are similar to those faced by soldiers or aid workers in war zones. There are likely to be cases
of post-traumatic stress when this is all over. Recently, faced with a Covid-19 patient scared of dying, I could only smile behind my facemask and offer a gloved hand to calm her down: giving her a hug was not an option. What can we do to keep ourselves functioning and healthy in these trying times? Many of the normal tricks used to confront the usual anxieties associated with healthcare work can’t be applied to Covid-related anxiety. A clinical psychologist I know says that teaching your mind not to become preoccupied with “wandering” thoughts is important.
"YOU'RE DOING ENOUGH. YOU ARE ENOUGH" She recommends making a concerted effort not to focus on the negatives, absences and perceived service failings; not to let your mind drift to the things you aren’t doing, the social bonds you aren’t able to maintain, the news and information you aren’t keeping up with. Instead, try to focus on what you are doing, which is, as she and many others insist, amazing. She has a simple message: “You are doing enough. You are enough.” At work, finding new methods of coping has become key. Ensuring we take time to ask each other if we are okay is crucial. With expressions obscured by masks, it’s become a vital new healthcare skill to be able to tell what emotions people are going through solely by looking at their eyes. Checking up on each other has become really important, and I’m particularly enjoying the new ways of being affectionate at work – elbow tap here, toe tap there. With the help of friends and colleagues, I’ve added a few other techniques to the toolkit I’m using to help deal with Covid-19 anxiety. Firstly, I’ve bought an alarm clock so that when I go to sleep, I can leave my phone in a different room. That way I’m more disconnected from the world when I’m resting, and less tempted to catch up on things if I wake up in the middle of the night. And when I do get up, I don’t open my eyes to a bombardment of push-up notifications, emails and frenzied messages. Secondly, I make sure I do some form of exercise once a day – even if this means following a pre-recorded boxing class via a choppy video stream. And finally, I make sure to properly relax during my time off by pencilling in some time for just sprawling on the sofa and watching rubbish TV. Just make sure that the new series doesn’t have a pandemic-related sub-plot before you get stuck into it.
ANA WADDINGTON is a senior nurse in A&E at a major trauma hospital in London. Born in Chile to an English father and Spanish mother, she has lived in other countries, notably Italy, Portugal, Switzerland, Morocco and the UK. After taking a history degree at SOAS, she worked in the charity sector and then trained as a nurse. She volunteers with NGO’s supporting refugees and has set up an organisation – Yourstance – to help young people affected by serious youth violence in London.
Korea’s ‘Tiananmen’ and world memory
China was not the only country to have suffered its Tiananmen Square. Helsinki-based Finnish foreign correspondent and writer Rauli Virtannen, who covered South Korea’s Gwanju uprising in 1980, recently returned to explore the seeming phenomenon of collective amnesia and the need to ensure that younger generations not only do not forget but remain informed.
Woman mourning victim of the 1980 ‘riot’ as the government first referred to the protest. (Photo: Rauli Virtanen)
“YOUNG PEOPLE SACRIFICED THEMSELVES for change in society, for democracy, for human rights, for truth and so on. Their energy was the focus, or rather the centre of change. Today’s younger generations are not as interested as they were in the 1980s,” reflects Professor Shin Gyonggu, the volunteer director of the Gwangju International Centre in South Korea, which marked its 20th anniversary in 2019. As he describes it, the centre, part of Unesco's “Memory of the World” programme, seeks to safeguard humanity against collective amnesia. Gyonggu estimates that about 10-20 per cent of South Korean youth are not aware of the Gwangju uprising. This historical context is important. The older I get, the more disturbed I am about historical amnesia and the willingness of society to let such memories slip. Such forgetfulness is not happening just in South Korea but also in Europe, Africa and elsewhere. I have to keep reminding my readers that when I started my career as a foreign reporter in 1970s, Western Europe lived under military dic-
tatorships in Portugal, Spain, and Greece, which today are bastions of democracy, but at the cost of much suffering to their citizens.
A STUDENT REBELLION AGAINST MARTIAL LAW South Korea was also a military dictatorship when I first approached Gwangju with world-renowned war photographer Eddie Adams on 25 May 1980, nearly 40 years ago. Adams, who died in 2004, won over 500 awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for his iconic photograph of the execution of a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon. On 18 May, students from the local Chonnam University led a rebellion against the martial law regime of then strongman Chun Doo-hwan, who had staged an army coup on 12 December 1979, overthrowing the country’s civilian government. A military blockade prevented traffic and communications into and out of Gwangju. The soldiers holding a roadblock outside the city denied
us entry. Adams, who had also covered the Korean War, quietly pulled the commanding officer aside and said: “Listen, I was here during the war when you were a little boy, and I gave you your first chewing gum.” It worked. The soldiers let us pass and we entered the city before the nightly curfew. By then, scores of people had already been killed by paratroopers. However, the core of students holding the Provincial Hall, the city’s main government building steadfastly refused to surrender. Amid the chaos and din, we could hear loudspeakers appealing for blood donations. By the time night fell, the army loudspeakers were warning the few foreigners in English not to go out into the streets. The soldiers were under orders to shoot. The next day we visited the sports gymnasium where coffins were displayed. I counted 56. On the top of each coffin lay a photograph of the student or civilian victim inside. Those not yet identified were laid outside a nearby state building where groups of people of 15 were allowed to approach in order to identify the bodies. Students collected money for a mass funeral. At around 4 a.m. on Tuesday 27 May, I heard shooting and the sound of helicopters. The final phase of the military operation to crush the revolt had begun. It took roughly two hours for the students in the Provincial Hall to surrender. With the break of dawn, I walked to the square to photograph the military detaining suspects, primarily those who had survived the final battle.
REFRESHING ONE’S MEMORIES OF GWANGJU I am now back in Gwangju to refresh my memories and to give some of my photographs from 1980 to the International Centre’s archives. During the martial law years, some of the Korean reporters who had taken photographs had hidden them, but dug them out later. It was only in 1988 with the change of government that they dared exhibit their photos. My principal aim is to find out how the uprising, which had been obfuscated for so long, is being handled in South Korea. The exhibition is impressive, and I am happy to see so many young people visiting it despite the central authority’s continued hesitancy to acknowledge the “We have no clear statistics of the casualties,” explains Gyonggu. “The official statistics claim 186 killed, and those who died during the attack at the Provincial Hall is officially 17. But some military personnel personally told me that of there were nearly 200 dead with around 100 killed on the last day, and not just 17…”
STUDENTS OFFERED BRAVERY, SACRIFICES AND THEIR STORIES FOR PEOPLE TO REMEMBER In China, Tiananmen Square is considered taboo by the Beijing government – a position that it seeks to enforce not just through intimidation or arrests, but also by blanket blocking of the name ’Tiananmen’ or even its date, on the Internet. In 1980 students protested in Tiananmen Square in what Beijing officially refers to as the “June 4th incident”. This, too, resulted in a massacre with troops firing assault rifles and tank rounds at the demonstrators. Several hundred to several thousand people are believed to have been killed, with thousands more wounded. The Beijing government continues to ban all references to it.
The Gwangju uprising, observes Gyonggu, was also taboo under the Seoul military government, though not as much as in China. The Korean students’ bravery and sacrifices, together with stories and images of the events, changed public perceptions, especially among young people. “That is why mass participation [in reform movements] began in 1980,” Gyonggu says. For the family members of the Gwangju victims, or martyrs as they are referred to, the whole incident acted as a stimulus. “They staged demonstrations everywhere and made a crack in the military rule. Since then, students have demonstrated every May, both here and throughout the nation.”
CHANGING ATTITUDES, BUT NOT QUITE…THE TRUTH IS ONLY ALLOWED TO PROCEED SO FAR Gyonggu says the military regime initially referred to the Gwangju uprising as a “riot”. It then changed the official label to the Gwangju “incident”. “It was more useful than the word ’riot’,” he says. “Not very positive but more neutral.” The government persisted with this description until 1988, when the National Parliament officially re-named it to “18 May democratization movement”. This is now the official name, but the activists still like to call it the Gwangju uprising. “The reason why Parliament called it the ‘18 May democratization movement’ is that the revolt was not limited to Gwangju alone, but affected the entire country. Furthermore, South Korean activists did not like referring to it as ‘Gwangju’ because the military government sought to contain it officially as a localized uprising. In reality, it was a democratization movement for the entire nation,” says Gyonggu. By 1988, attitudes had officially changed, but only to a point. There was a parliamentary hearing that exposed what had happened to the general public for the first time. Yet, as he points out, even then, it was “not the complete truth”. The conservative government was still not willing to go the whole way with the hearing. Twenty years after Gwangju, South Korea – now under a civilian president – decided to hold a truth commission. Yet, once again, military influence prevailed. President Kim Dae-jung, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, proved more interested in promoting national reconciliation than truth finding. “Today, in 2019, the new government wants to have another truth commission, but the conservative party is refusing to cooperate. But this year , we will have parliamentary elections and the conservatives may agree beforehand, because they know that otherwise they will end up being a minority,” Gyonggu says. There has also been a lot of fake news relating to Gwangju, such a fabricated stories of 600 North Korean soldiers coming to the city to kill people. Even despite the Center, Gyonggu remains worried about the future. “People are losing interest in the past, in the past movements and uprisings. This is not good, but we have to persevere,” he says. RAULI VIRTANEN is an award-winning Finnish freelance journalist, author and documentary film producer. He has covered conflicts since the Vietnam War and has visited 194 countries. He has written for major international media such as The Independent, Svenska Dagbladet and The Baltimore Sun.
Hong Kong’s dehumanitarianism – an urgent appeal for international mediation Darren Mann
This piece was published online in Global Geneva in December, 2019. Since then, COVID-19 has dominated events in Hong Kong. However, amidst the pandemic, police arrested over a dozen leading protesters signalling a broader crackdown on public dissent. By early May, protestors were preparing to take to the streets again. DID YOU FORGET SOMEBODY’S ANNIVERSARY THIS YEAR? Did you forget everybody’s anniversary this year? December 10th is World Human Rights Day, a symbolic commemoration of the day in 1948 when the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A humanitarian landmark.
IMAGINE SOMEMORE… Can you imagine a world where that momentous event had never happened? A dehumanitarian world? Close your eyes. I want you to imagine a City of violence; a fractured place where the people wage a war against their government. Imagine that you are injured in those protests, in a violent confrontation with law enforcement. You call for an ambulance. But a police car arrives. And you are arrested. Or an ambulance arrives. With police inside instead of ambulance men. And you are arrested. Imagine a City where you are taken to hospital. Injured. And you are secretly allocated a tracking code, which labels you as an enemy of the state – and which is accessed by the police. They are the ones who patrol the hospital. And who arrest you. Imagine a City where you need an emergency operation for your injuries, and the police request to enter the operating theatre. You wake up from the emergency surgery. And you are arrested in your recovery bed, perhaps by the very policeman who shot you. Imagine the City that you return to after leaving the hospital. With the bullet still inside your body. Or not, it doesn’t matter. Because your Hospital Discharge Certificate reads: ‘trauma injury, unspecified cause’. Because the doctors have been warned not to diagnose an injury attributable to the police.
WHO IS CARING FOR YOUR CHILDREN? Imagine that City when you try to take legal action against the policeman who shot you. At recklessly close range. And you are told he cannot be identified. Ever. Because he was excused from wearing his identification number. In fact, none of the police have an identification number. Or a face. They are anonymous on duty, acting with the security of impunity sanctioned by a higher authority.
Doctors in Hong Kong arrested by police for seeking to bring medical relief to injured protestors. (Photo: D. Mann)
Imagine your City University. Where the students (your children) are protesting to protect their vision of the future. Their future. Their City. Their identity. And they are wounded. And hurting. And dehumanised. There is nobody to comfort them. Or treat them. This is because all the nurses and doctors who volunteered to care for them have been arrested. They are made to kneel with their wrists bound behind their backs. Arrested, arrayed and humiliated like so many redcrossed terrorists. Imagine your City Teaching Hospital, where the doctors have sworn an oath of allegiance to the Government. Not to Hippocrates. So nobody trusts the Government Hospital system anymore. And a new underground system of doctors and nurses, and clinics and hospitals has flourished to provide care in safety and security. With your human rights and confidentiality respected.
OPEN YOUR EYES. WELCOME TO HONG KONG. Now imagine what would it take to ‘rehumanise’ this place. Could the government and the people do it amongst themselves? Anymore than the Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland could have on their own? Surely not. A mediator. A good faith actor. Equally acceptable (or unacceptable) to both sides. A conduit through which the delicate shoots of a resolution can be channeled, to take root in the soil of the imagination of the other side. That is what is needed. And urgently so. Is that really so far beyond our collective humanitarianism? DARREN MANN is a surgeon based in Hong Kong
In The Mouth Of The Wolf 1 “Everyone has a great, horrible opera inside him…” —Sarah Ruhl, playwright “…[there are] different kinds of dire” —Rebecca Solnit
Stradella sang We leave tomorrow, are you willing? but Cornélie Falcon could not answer—the wolf spat I no longer have a future from the soprano’s mouth. Yes, there are different kinds of dire. A retriever is found alive after eight days in quake rubble, no human left, house razed. (Note: the dire wolf, preserved in La Brea tar, larger and fiercer than ancestors of our Bella—bones of birds and ruminating beasts in what was its belly.) The three-year-old in the orphanage would not stop crying. Her father did not remember where he left her. A debris-covered sofa faced the television. A man raised his arms in prayer. A boy walked his bike.
 "In the mouth of the wolf ") is an Italian idiom used in opera and theatre to wish a performer good luck prior to a performance. Wikipedia, 8 Nov. 2017 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_bocca_al_lupo
EW I V E R OOK
One Man’s War for Human Dignity: The Extraordinary Life of Kevin Boyle Charles Norchi
It might come as a surprise for some that Mike Chinoy, probably best known for his coverage
as a foreign correspondent and author of China, North Korea and other parts of Asia for so many years, opted to write a book about a Northern Irish human rights activist. But then, why shouldn’t Boyle attract the attention of a reporter who reported Northern Ireland in the
1970s and 80s, and currently covers Hong Kong and compares much of what is happening there to the ‘Troubles’ that occurred in Belfast decades earlier? International law professor Charles H. Norchi, who knew Boyle through human advocacy and academia from Ireland to New York and Geneva, comments on Chinoy’s exceptional book.
RE YOU WITH ME? KEVIN BOYLE AND THE RISE OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT, by Mike Chinoy, chronicles the life of a man who spanned civil rights in Northern Ireland and the human rights movement from the halls of academia to international organizations and tribunals. I knew Boyle through our mutual human rights worlds. And being Dublin-born, I knew of the nearly daily bombings, shootings and sectarian assassinations so had a special interest in ‘The Troubles’ (to which our thoughts return in these days of looming Brexit) and the ensuing peace process to which Kevin was so committed. The Troubles was the way many described the religious-nationalist conflict that broke out in the late 1960s and more or less came to an end with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Boyle, a scholar-teacher-advocate-counselor who, like Eleanor Roosevelt, occupied multiple roles in the human rights movement, played a significant role in helping to bring an end to this turmoil which also affected the United Kingdom itself, Ireland, Europe and the United States. Yet he remained an unsung hero, until this book. Chinoy, who is based in Hong Kong, first met Boyle while a student at Yale. He maintained the contact through his distinguished reporting career. For this book, he mined the James Hardiman Library at the National University of Ireland, Galway and drew upon multiple oral histories and extensive interviews. Deploying the skills of a seasoned reporter, Chinoy delivers the reader to a front row seat of the late 20th Century human rights canvass – the Northern Ireland civil rights movement, advocacy before the European Court of Human Rights, academia, civil society and the flowering human rights movement. Boyle was at the forefront of it all. From his perch at the Queen’s University Law Faculty in Belfast, he drafted
proposals for resolving the Northern Irish conflict. He also shone a light upon the abuses perpetrated by the British army and Northern Ireland police in a landmark case to the European Commission on behalf of seven Northern Irish men who were interned without trial, beaten and tortured. He mobilized international law on behalf of victims of torture, unjust imprisonment, discrimination and defended freedom of expression, belief and association. Boyle also guided Amnesty International’s campaign against apartheid in South Africa, and spearheaded efforts to defend Salman Rushdie as Director of Article 19. Yet he never neglected human rights teaching, because students were the future. So he directed the University of Essex Human Rights Law Centre and was founding Director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland at Galway. When President Mary Robinson became United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, she wisely appointed Boyle her chief legal advisor – so he moved to Geneva. This human rights law professor, advocate and activist died of lung cancer at age sixty-seven. At the time
Kevin Boyle arguing a Kurdish case at the European Court of Human Rights. (Photo: Kevin Boyle)
my University of Maine School of Law colleague Orlando Delogu who taught with Boyle at Galway observed, “He was single minded in his defence of oppressed people. The breadth of his interests was quite amazing, but always behind the scenes, the use of law – never violence.” Boyle helped lay the foundation for expanded human rights protections across the planet and inspired generations of scholars and activists. How did Chinoy choose the title for this book? Boyle was first a university teacher. While lecturing he would pause and ask his students, “Are you with me?” It was a two-fold question. Did they understand the material? And would they be with him on the front line in the fight for human rights? “Are you with me?” Are You With Me? will be launched at Essex University on 19 March 2020, with book events to follow in Dublin, Belfast, London, Galway and Oxford. it can be pre-ordered through Lilliput Press: https://www.lilliputpress.ie/product/are-you-with-me” As a foreign correspondent for CNN for 24 years, Mike Chinoy won Emmy, Peabody and Dupont awards for his journalism. While he worked primarily in China and North Korea, he also reported on the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 80s. It was during this time that he met Kevin Boyle. Chinoy is currently a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the University of Southern California’s US-China Institute and is based in Hong Kong. His books include China Live: People, Power, and Television Revolution (1999), Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis (2008), and The Last POW (2014). His work has been widely acclaimed across the globe. In the 1990s, Boyle brought – and won – scores of cases before the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of Kurds in south-eastern Turkey who had faced imprisonment, torture, rape, and murder at the hands of the Turkish security forces (link to Jonathon Randal’s piece).
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CHARLES H. NORCHI is a contributing editor to Global Geneva and Benjamin Thompson Professor of Law at the University of Maine School of Law, USA. He has written for Global Geneva about Afghanistan, the Polar regions and international human rights.
PT R E C X OK E
“Are You With Me? Kevin Boyle and the Rise of the Human Rights Movement” by Mike Chinoy
EDITOR’S NOTE Are You With Me? Kevin Boyle and the Rise of the Human Rights Movement by for-
mer CNN correspondent Mike Chinoy is the forthcoming biography of Kevin Boyle, one of the world’s great human rights lawyers. In a career that lasted decades and spanned continents, Boyle tackled
issues ranging from freedom of the press to terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism to the rights of gay people, women and minorities. He was a leading figure in the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, and left an enduring mark on international human rights law. He also played a critical
role as the senior advisor to Mary Robinson during her tenure as UN High Commissioner of Human
Rights. This excerpt from "Are You With Me?" recounts the pivotal role Boyle played in Geneva in ef-
forts to blunt abuses committed in the U.S. 'war on terror' following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
Mike Chinoy IN EARLY JUNE 2001, the phone rang at Kevin Boyle’s office at the University of Essex, where the Northern Ireland native and veteran rights activist and lawyer ran the Centre for Human Rights. It was Mary Robinson, the former Irish President and a long-time friend. Robinson had been asked by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to extend her original four-year tenure as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for another twelve months. Was Boyle willing to accept a one-year position as her chief advisor and speech-writer in Geneva? In the treacherous political minefield of the UN, Robinson valued Boyle, a friend and colleague for nearly two decades, for his intellect, legal acumen and long track record of defending human rights – his ‘good brain’, as she called it – but also because ‘there is nothing more important than having somebody close to you as a special advisor who also minds your back’. But nothing prepared Boyle for what was to come. His first day was to be 11 September 2001. That Tuesday afternoon, Robinson was on a boat off the west coast of Ireland taking a much-needed holiday. In Geneva, just hours into his job, with Robinson temporarily unreachable, it fell to Boyle to begin crafting a human rights response to the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks that left 3000 people dead in the United States. A series of intense meetings and discussions followed, as Boyle worked to develop an analysis that would insert a human rights perspective into the impassioned international debate over how to respond. The pressure was extreme. It was, as Boyle’s wife Joan observed, ‘a baptism by fire’. Just over a week later, Boyle presented Robinson with a paper called ‘A Human Rights Approach to the September 11 Terrorist Attacks’. Its central argument was that ‘under international criminal law, the … attacks can be characterized as a crime against humanity,’ creating ‘a
duty in all states to assist in bringing the culprits to justice.’ But, clearly foreseeing the danger posed to human rights by the possibility of an excessive reaction, it reminded governments that ‘the search for those responsible for the U.S. attacks must be pursued within the law and under the guidance of the international norms of international human rights and humanitarian law’. Soon after, President George W. Bush addressed an emergency joint session of the US Congress. He used an entirely different formulation. The US was engaged in a ‘war on terror’, he declared, making clear that military action against al-Qaeda and its Taliban backers in Afghanistan was imminent. He made no reference to international law or human rights. Robinson and Boyle did not question the legitimacy of attacking al-Qaeda and the Taliban, but both believed Bush’s notion of a ‘war on terror’ was fundamentally flawed. ‘It was a war on an abstraction,’ Robinson said, increasing the possibility of human rights abuses and having the potential to undermine the broad international support the United States enjoyed in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. American officials, however, were sharply critical of Boyle and Robinson’s position. On many mornings, Boyle’s phone would ring and someone from the US mission to the UN in Geneva would launch into a bitter tirade about Robinson’s public statements. Meanwhile, with the UN Security Council’s CounterTerrorism Committee having mandated that all 191 member states provide reports on their counter-terrorism efforts, Boyle and Robinson grew increasingly concerned that protection of human rights was not being taken seriously. To convince the Committee, Boyle drafted a detailed memo which Robinson sent to the chairman, Britain’s UN ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock. In it, Boyle laid out a series of key legal principles – necessity,
proportionality, non-discrimination, and due process – and the international legal framework that underpinned them. He then posed twenty-one questions which he urged the Committee to consider in assessing the performance of governments. They included whether any new antiterrorist legislation could be used to curb peaceful activity protected by international human rights laws; what measures were in place to prevent torture and other abuses and ensure that information obtained through mistreatment would not be admitted as evidence; whether counter-terrorism measures could lead to discrimination on the basis of race or religion; and what provisions existed to ensure that claims of asylum were not rejected based on unfounded allegations of terrorist activities. He also raised a question that would soon become a new point of contention with the US: ‘Do your counterterrorism measures allow for the trial of civilians on terrorism-related charges by special or military courts?’ Around the same time, President Bush issued an executive order authorizing the creation of military tribunals for the detention and trial of non-American citizens suspected of involvement in terrorism. The order in effect created a parallel structure where the US could detain and try people outside the American criminal justice system. The move set off alarm bells. Boyle drafted a note to Robinson outlining its dangerous provisions: detainees could be held indefinitely; they did not have to be told the reason for their arrest or of the charges against them; they were not guaranteed legal representation or the right of appeal. The executive order, Boyle concluded, posed ‘a direct threat to fundamental rights…[and] will not only occasion lasting damage to the ability of the U.S. to champion human rights and the rule of law around the world, but it will also undermine the human rights standards that underpin the collective efforts currently being deployed by the international community to define and distinguish acts of terrorism from legally permissible conduct.’ Boyle urged Robinson to make a ‘strong appeal’ to Bush to rescind or at least modify the order. But the appeal fell on deaf ears. Hundreds of people were caught up in the new US system, held at secret detention sites in Afghanistan and, starting in January 2002, at the US military base at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. In the months that followed, reports emerged of brutality and torture, as well as detained suspected terrorists being sent to other countries with well-established records for torture like Egypt and Morocco. In February 2002, increasingly concerned not only about the American administration’s behaviour, but by the fact that, in many countries, cracking down on terror was being used as an excuse to erode civil liberties, curb peaceful dissent, and imprison political dissidents, Boyle worked with Robinson to draft a long document for the UN’s Human Rights Commission called Human Rights: A Uniting Framework. The document reiterated the argument that the 9/11 attacks should be seen as a crime against humanity, but
maintained that ‘an effective strategy to counter terror should use human rights as unifying framework’. It called on all states to implement the anti-terror steps spelled out in the Security Council’s resolution 1373 ‘in a manner consistent with human rights’, and concluded by directly challenging the view that some rights might need to be curtailed to combat terrorism. ‘There is wide recognition that ensuring respect for human rights and dignity throughout the world is the best long-term guarantor of security.’ To reinforce the point, Boyle’s list of twenty-one questions was inserted as an annex to the formal text of Robinson’s speech, a clever bureaucratic move that made the checklist an official UN document. But this simply further angered the Bush administration, and by the spring of 2002, it became clear the US was determined to force her out. Under intense pressure from Washington, Annan agreed not to back her for a full second term. For Boyle, her forced departure was a bitter disappointment Since that time, as regimes from China to Turkey to Syria, as well as an increasing number of western governments, have used the real or imagined threat from “terrorism” to justify a sweeping range of repressive policies, it has become clear that the concerns Boyle and Robinson articulated immediately after 9/11 were justified. Indeed, the erosion of protections has been so extensive that there have even been headlines recently about ‘the end of human rights.’ But Boyle saw himself, and the human rights movement, engaged in a never-ending struggle, one that would require frequent adjustments of strategy and tactics without losing sight of the long-term goal. In January 2001, for example, while awaiting a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights on a case concerning NATO’s bombing of the Serbian television headquarters in Belgrade in 1999 which left sixteen civilians dead, Boyle wrote, ‘we see this case as just one modest step on the long road to the rule of international law. Even if we fail, ultimately someone will build on it.’ This kind of clear-eyed, understated, but committed view underpinned Kevin Boyle’s approach to human rights, as did his refusal to lose hope or give up. As Mary Robinson declared in her farewell speech as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 11 September 2002, using words Boyle may well have crafted and certainly agreed with, ‘human rights are not expendable. It is time for those who believe in human rights to keep their nerve’. That was true then, as the world reeled from the fallout of the 9/11 attacks a year earlier. It remains equally true today.
As a foreign correspondent for CNN for 24 years, MIKE CHINOY won Emmy, Peabody and Dupont awards for his journalism. While he worked primarily in China and North Korea, he also reported on the Troubles in Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 80s. It was during this time that he met Kevin Boyle. Chinoy is currently a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the University of Southern California’s US-China Institute and is based in Hong Kong. His books include China Live: People, Power, and Television Revolution (1999), Meltdown: The Inside Story of the North Korean Nuclear Crisis (2008), and The Last POW (2014).
Switzerland’s Prisoners of War during two world wars and beyond
For a country that remained neutral during two world wars, it often comes as a surprise that Switzerland actually interned prisoners of war from all sides. German, French, British,
American, Russian, Polish, Italian…The Swiss even held a dozen Soviet prisoners for the International Committee of the Red Cross in a guarded Alpine villa during the 1980s. While
such internments were perceived as a humanitarian gesture by a strategically important
neutral nation, they also helped save the Swiss tourism industry. British historian Susan Barton writes about this phenomenon on the publication of her latest book.
INTERNMENT IN SWITZERLAND DURING world war one, is my second book relating to Swiss history. My first, Healthy Living in the Alps, was about the search for a cure from TB and the subsequent development of winter sports before 1914. Many histories end at this date while others begin after 1918, leaving a wartime gap. It was this historical lacuna that aroused my curiosity. During the 1900s increasing visitor numbers led many Swiss hotels to rebuild or extend their facilities, often funded by loans and mortgages. The First World War, however, left hotels devoid of guests and income. Unable to repay their debts they faced ruin. But Swiss negotiations with the warring nations to exchange some of their wounded prisoners of war, insufficiently incapacitated to repatriate, offered the hotels a lifeline. By transferring them from prison camps to Switzerland for internment, the tourism industry lobbied for internees to occupy empty hotels – and at a charge. Between January 1916 and August 1919, nearly 68,000 wounded or sick officers and men were interned in Switzerland; 37,515 French, 4,326 Belgians, 21,000 Germans and 4,081 British, enlivened otherwise deserted
resorts. Germans were interned in German-speaking regions. particularly around Davos. French and Belgians were scattered mainly throughout the francophone areas. When the British soldiers arrived, at the end of May 1916, they were concentrated in areas popular with English speaking tourists before the war, the main centres being Chateau d’Oex and Mürren but with smaller groups in other communities according to employment, education and medical needs.
AN OVERWHELMING WELCOME BY THE SWISS National groupings also comprised troops from the colonies: Canadians, Australians, Africans, South Asians and Arabs. Host communities were selected because of their pre-war economic dependence on tourism, thanks to lobbying by the hotel industry. Hotel bills and medical expenses were reimbursed by the governments of the internees’ homelands. Wounded soldiers arriving by train in Switzerland were overwhelmed by the welcome of the Swiss who crowded into railway stations to greet them, showering
them with flowers, chocolate and cigarettes. What surprises most people is the relative freedom enjoyed by internees. Officers who could afford to do so could rent a chalet or apartment privately and have their families join them. For poorer soldiers, charitable collections back home paid for mothers, wives or fiancées to visit for a holiday transported on special trains through France and Germany. Visiting fiancées were expected to marry during their stay, so brides carried a wedding dress in their luggage. Many stories of courtship, weddings and new babies appear in the internees’ magazines. One heart-warming story is that of a mother, Mrs Stock, grieving the loss of her son for a year until she received a letter from him in Switzerland. Her local Northamptonshire community raised the funds for her to visit him. Female visitors added to the income of hotels and other businesses such as cafés and shops. Sport was vital to internment life, particularly for rehabilitation and relieving boredom. Football was the favourite, with hotel teams in resort leagues. Teams could travel to away matches against other internees or Swiss teams such as Young Boys of Bern and Servette of Geneva. Boxing was popular, too. British internees in Mürren were the first to be assessed using the new tests of the Ski Club GB, instructed by ski-pioneer Arnold Lunn. Cultural activities also figured prominently in the routines of the internees. With donated musical instruments, musicians formed orchestras to entertain their colleagues and local people. As well as music there were theatrical groups whose performances provided outlets for creativity, an antidote to boredom, and a few hours of escapism for audiences.
MEDICAL CARE, EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION: ALL PART OF THE DEAL Many internees had unhealed wounds or needed further treatment. Medical facilities were provided in every internment centre. Hospitals for more serious cases, needing surgery or corrective treatment, were situated in Lucerne, initially shared but later for Germans only, and in Fribourg for the Allies. Work or education was compulsory for non-officers in sufficiently good health. Men worked in agriculture, industry or local businesses. Officers were exempt from work. Training courses allowed those with life-changing injuries and disabilities to learn new trades, such as book-keeping, motor mechanics, driving, carpentry and book-binding. Those academically qualified could study in Swiss universities, something difficult for British internees but eagerly taken up by French and German speakers. For the Swiss, internment helped bring together the different language groups in a common cause, building community cohesion and a national identity based on humanitarianism and neutrality. It helped keep the borders open for coal, food and other trade, as well as helping the tourism industry. During World War Two, 104,000 soldiers from 38 nations were interned across Switzerland, no longer with
POW status. There were 30,000 French, 21,000 Italians, 13,000 Polish, 7,000 former POWs after the surrender of Italy, 3,000 Germans and 1,500 German deserters, all providing incomes for empty hotels. From each other nation, there were fewer than 1,000 internees. There were internment centres in 768 Swiss communities. (Basically, ordinary soldiers, such as Polish or Soviet whose governments would not pay, were interned in camps.) In 1941, an agreement was reached for sick POWs imprisoned in Germany to come to Switzerland, assisted by the Red Cross. While soldiers, particularly Allied officers, were expected to respect their hotel internments, many escaped, some of them in coordination with their embassies, but usually on their own and in Spring along ‘underground railways’ to Spain or Portugal. Those who were captured were interned in camps, such as Wauwilermoos.
GOOD CARE FOR POWS, BUT HARSH INTERNMENT FOR ATTEMPTED ESCAPEES Some 10,000 tuberculosis sufferers transferred to Leysin sanatoria overlooking Lake Geneva, where 500 internees a week were treated. Americans, whose aircraft had violated Swiss neutrality, were interned in Andermatt. As numbers grew, more US airforce officers were sent to Davos and Wengen. Internees of various nationalities in Arosa worked on infrastructure projects, such as improving footpaths and ski facilities, helping prepare for tourism’s post-war resumption. At Diablerets, Egolzwil and the notorious Wauwilermoos were punishment camps. (Editorial note: the latter was described in various reports as ‘disgraceful’, ‘harsh’ and ‘unacceptable’.) Like their World War One counterparts, internees played sport, learnt to ski with local instructors, enjoyed musical concerts and formed orchestras. They brought life to the resorts spending their pay in cinemas, cafes and shops. With peace, leave for American soldiers helped kick-start post-war tourism. In St Moritz alone, between 1945 and 1946, 500 to 600 G.I.s arrived every 5 days for 10 days of relaxation. Despite the shameful conditions in the Wauwilermoos punishment camp, which have poisoned the legacy of World War Two internment, most internees preferred internment in Switzerland to incarceration in an enemy POW camp, an arrangement that proved the salvation of Swiss tourism during both world wars. Editorial note: One unique legacy of this was the internment of at least 12 Soviet POWs captured by the mujahideen (Afghan ‘holy warriors’ or guerrillas) and negotiated by the ICRC during the 1980s. Technically prisoners of the ICRC, they were held at a mountain villa by Swiss soldiers for two years, or the duration of the war, whichever came first. Some eventually returned to the Soviet Union, while others opted for exile in Canada and other countries. DR SUSAN BARTON is a visiting research fellow at De Montfort University in Leicester, United Kingdom.
Demining key to conservation plans Keith Somerville
Deminers explode landmine in Huambo, Angola, in 1996. (Photo: UN/John Charles Monua)
South-eastern Angola has the potential to become a major wildlife area with huge elephant herds, prides of lion and the sort of game diversity that has brought fame
and tourist dollars to Botswana and Namibia. It contains the watershed of the Cuito and Cubango (also known as the Kavango) rivers, which flow down into Botswana to form the Okavango Delta, one of the most important bio-diversity hotspots in the region.
THERE’S A PROBLEM WITH ANGOLA’S HOPES, of cashing in on its animal biodiversity – or more accurately hundreds of thousands or even millions of problems. Landmines. In the Angolan province of Cuando Cubango – which contains the key wildlife habitats of the Mavinga and Luengue Luiana National Parks – there are nearly 250 minefields, sown during 27 years of civil war (19752002) following the almost overnight departure of colonial Portugal in the wake of the April, 1974 revolution. These take human and animal life, block agricultural and conservation projects, and stop the development of a potentially lucrative safari-based tourist industry. At the same time, there is some hope for the people and wildlife who live in this remote and often ignored region. On 17 June, 2019, it was announced at a conference at Chatham House in London that a new
initiative was being launched between the HALO Trust and the government of Angola, which is investing $60 million to clear landmines in Cuando Cubango. The objective is to open up the area for conservation projects and eco-tourism leading to economic recovery. The launch was supported by the UK’s Prince Harry (who has a major conservation role as President of African Parks and whose mother, Princess Diana, helped bring world-wide attention to the Angolan landmine issue). Also there was Rory Stewart, at the time the UK’s International Development Secretary. Harry made headlines around the world when he accompanied HALO deminers to areas where Princess Diana had also visited in January 1997. He trod the same paths through active minefields and again drew global attention to the issue.
WHY SO MANY MINES IN ANGOLA?
ANGOLA’S WILDLIFE: ALMOST UNPARALLELED IN AFRICA
There has been a long-term international commitment by the United Nations, Red Cross and a myriad of other Angola is not widely known known now for its wildlife. international organisations and NGOs to help Angolans But before and during centuries of Portuguese rule, deal with the problem of landmines laid during the vast herds of game (buffalo, antelope, zebras, elephants, country’s long civil war. Angola has been the focus of lions and black rhino) roamed Cuando Cubango. This is much effort to clear mines, which were sown across from according to Brian Huntley, who served as an ecologist north-central Angola around Malanje, into the Central to the Portuguese national parks administration before Highlands near the towns of Huambo and Cuito, and the end of Portuguese rule. In his book Wildlife at War in across huge swatches of rural Angola, but most of all in Angola, he details the wildlife found in Angola’s national the south-east. I accompanied HALO teams on demining parks, but with special mention of the large populations of operations around Kuito in June 1995, during a temporary elephant and rhino. ceasefire, and saw the damage done to people and the The presence of so much wildlife in the southeconomy from decades of fighting. We also witnessed the east meant that it not only had conservation areas but immense difficulty of clearing mines in and around towns also extensive hunting zones, called coutadas, used by and in thick bush. Portuguese soldiers, administrators and visiting safari The 1995 ceasefire did not halt the war, which dragged hunters. Hunting continued during the liberation war as on until rebel UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi was killed in a government offensive in February 2002. The end of hostilities enabled a stepping-up of demining, but as in most postconflict regions it was hampered by the remoteness of many of the minefields and a shortage of funds. While work has been continuing on involving British demining groups, such as HALO Trust and MAG, as well as teams funded by other donors and organizations, Cuando Cubango and areas near the borders with Namibia and Zambia remain heavily mined. This impedes the local agricultural economy from recovering. It also poses an extreme hazard to villagers but also to the hopes of enabling wildlife to recover to the large numbers that existed prior to the liberation war (1961-1975) against Southern African elephants could migrate into Angola once the threat of poaching and landmines and proper land corridors the Portuguese and the civil conflict that are created. (Photo: Michael Lorentz) followed. Much of the fighting in the last 20 years took place in Cuando Cubango between the the south-east escaped relatively unscathed. But the civil Angolan government forces and their Cubans allies, on war between the new Angolan government and UNITA saw one side, and the US-backed UNITA rebel movement and the decimation of wildlife, particularly in the south. South African Defence Force (SADF) troops from South UNITA rebels killed animals for meat but also took Africa, on the other. advantage of the rising demand for ivory. They began killing The biggest tank battle in Africa since El Alamein elephants and the South Africans rapidly sealed a deal with (in WWII) took place at Cuito Cuanavale, bordering the UNITA to help finance their military support. The SADF Mavinga National Park, in 1987-88. The fighting lasted and military intelligence began trafficking ivory (as well from initial skirmishes in March 1987, through the as rhino horn) from animals killed, laundering it through smashing of the Angolan army by SADF units at the Lomba legal ivory sales from culls in Kruger National Park. (Global river in September-October 1987. This was followed by Geneva editor Edward Girardet who reported from the the siege of Angolan forces (reinforced by the Cubans) UNITA side for The Christian Science Monitor during the at Cuito Cuanavale by the South Africans and UNITA 1980s recalls eating freshly-killed eland and giraffe while from January to the end of March 1988. It all ended in a travelling with the guerrillas. He also witnessed significant bloody military stalemate. Soon afterwards, South Africa herds of elephants, which – UNITA claimed – could not be negotiated to withdraw its troops from Angola and to cede shot because they were “in the parks.” However, he also saw independence to Namibia. stacks of ivory from elephants supposedly shot “outside”.)
FROM THE FIELD | Angola: Demining key to conservation plans
The Kumleben Commission, set up by Nelson Mandela’s government after the end of apartheid, produced a report detailing the massive scale of killing of wildlife, but particularly elephants. One witness, Col. Jan Breytenbach of SADF 32 battalion which fought in Angola, told me in 1990 that perhaps as many as 100,000 elephants had been killed in the UNITA-SADF ivory operation. While funding UNITA, some of the revenues also went into Savimbi’s Swiss bank accounts as well as those of senior SADF officers and military intelligence agents.
CAN ANGOLA’S WILDLIFE RECOVER? Since the end of the war, and until now, there has been little obvious commitment on the part of the oil-rich but corrupt Angolan government to support demining. (Eds: See Keith Somerville’s Oct. 2016 article in Global Geneva on African corruption). Despite the extreme wealth of its leaders, the Luanda administration has barely sought to rehabilitate the local economy or to invest in infrastructure, agricultural development and people’s welfare. This is partly because development outside the oil and diamond sectors and urban construction have not been priorities. It was also because this area long served as the rebel stronghold. Even if many people who supported UNITA did so often literally at gunpoint, they were nowhere on the government’s list of post-war recovery projects. As a result, only a few landmines have been cleared. This makes farming, herding livestock or even fetching water in this fertile region difficult, even highly dangerous. Guns remain plentiful as there was no organized
disarming at the end of the war. Those in rural areas in and around the national parks have little option but to hunt for meat, notably buffalo and antelope, using AK-47s as well as snares. This is not poaching through greed but poaching through dire need. Roland Goetz, an experienced game ranger who worked for two years as a technical advisor in the Mavinga and Luengue Luiana National Parks, told me that there are still “many illegal weapons even though the Angolan Government are now doing their best to remove them, but in remote areas (hunting) bushmeat remains an important way of [people] feeding themselves”. He also told me that large numbers of elephant, buffalo and hippo are dying or being maimed by landmines. In 2005, a campaign was launched to demine the wildlife zones of south-east Angola. This was to encourage the vast elephant populations, seeking safe haven in Botswana from poaching and landmines, to disperse back into Angola. The Peace Parks Foundation and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) supported the efforts but made little headway. For a number of reasons, including the loss of aid pledges as Angolan oil revenues fell in the 2010s sending the Angolan economy into recession, funding for mine clearance dropped from nearly $50m in 2005 to just $3.1 million in 2017. The Cuando Cubango mines stayed in the ground and continued to take their toll of people, elephants and other wildlife.
ELEPHANTS RECOVER, THEN FALL BACK AGAIN A survey by Mike Chase and Curtice Griffin found that between January 2004 and November 2005 elephant
numbers in Luengue Luiana National Park had increased from 366 to 1,827. This lent hope that despite the slow speed of demining, wildlife would begin to recover. When the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) was formally established in 2011, it was intended to encourage the creation of migration routes for wildlife (covering Angola, Botswana Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe) and to create a huge transfrontier area along the Kavango and Zambezi rivers. But in another survey in 2015 it was found that the number of elephants in the same areas had dropped to 1,437. This was a blow to expectations that Angolan elephant herds Britain's Prince Harry visits HALO Angola minefield, Dirico. 27th September 2019 would increase through dispersal. Many were One good sign for wildlife and the prospects for making supposed to come from Botswana with its huge elephant it into a new source of income is the interest of African population (the whole KAZA region is estimated to Parks (an international NGO that runs 15 national parks have between 202,000-240,000, more than half of which in nine countries from Benin to Malawi) in taking over the at any time are in northern Botswana) and enable the running of Iona National Park in south-western Angola. repopulating of Angola’s prime elephant habitat. This park, which runs along the southern coast of Angola Human activity – poaching, encroachment in to the to the Namibian border, would be an important one to parks by people seeking food and grazing for their cattle start with. It would create a contiguous area with Skeleton and the landmines is the explanation offered for this Coast National Park in Namibia, home to the famed and failure with poaching perhaps the worst culprit. Efforts recovering population of desert-adapted lions as well as to stop poaching, however, are significantly impeded by black rhino and elephants able to live in arid areas. This the mines. Game ranger Goetz told me that their presence could emerge as a new transfrontier zone that would “makes things much harder, having to stick to less known encourage migration and expansion of species. Lions from safe roads. When walking in the bush on patrol, the everSkeleton Coast have already been tracked moving across present danger of being in such an area makes one stress the Cunene River into Iona. more than in unmined areas”. African Parks CEO Peter Fearnhead said in September that he had accompanied Prince Harry to southern Angola WILL NEW FUNDING HELP IMPROVE MATTERS? where they had met Angolan President, João Lourenço, Minister of Tourism Ângela Bragança, and Minister of Speaking at the June, 2019 Chatham House, Prince Environment Paula Coelho. Together they discussed “our Harry stressed the importance of clearing the mines proposed management of Iona National Park as well as and finding ways to turn previously hazardous areas other possibilities…for the benefit of the people and the into habitat for wildlife. This, he hoped, would be a way country.” The NGO, of which Prince Harry is President of bringing economic development and income for the – neatly tying together the landmine and conservation local people, while protecting bio-diversity. At the same issues – has considerable experience working to conference, Major General James Cowan, the CEO of the rehabilitate areas for both wildlife protection and tourism HALO Trust, welcomed Angola’s $60m pledge expressing development in former conflict zones, including Chad and the hope that “our work in the coming years will make Rwanda. local people safe and is the necessary first step to allow Without any pun intended, the landmine clearance Angola to develop the kind of conservation tourism that and national park rehabilitation will prove to be can protect wildlife while providing sustainable future elephantine tasks that will take sustained commitment development.” from the Angolan government, not something for which HALO, which has been operating for years in war zones it has been renowned in the past. Critical, too, is the need such as Afghanistan, has been clearing mines in Angola for new aid offers or funding from international bodies, since 1994 and has destroyed over 98,000 mines and NGOs and governments. But the aims – restoring the local 165,000 other explosive devices, such as unexploded shells, economy, protecting the Okavango Delta water system, in 860 minefields. But the deminers still have mountains boosting Angola’s conservation efforts and bio-diversity – to climb. And with speed. Both Luana and HALO want to are crucial for local Angolan communities, who have had complete the mine clearing in Cuando Cubango by 2025. to live with the curse of mines for so long. HALO estimates that it will need to clear 153 minefields inside the Mavinga and Luengue-Luiana National Parks KEITH SOMERVILLE teaches at the Centre for Journalism at the alone. It also suggests that another $60 million will be University of Kent where he is a member of its Durrell Institute of needed to clear minefields both outside the parks and Conservation and Ecology, and is a senior research fellow at the Institute around the river systems that feed the Okavango. The aim of Commonwealth Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of is to completely clear the Okavango watershed. London. He is also the author of Ivory. Power and Poaching in Africa.
Citizens and Scientists Battle Invasive Species
The introduction of invasive animal and plant species, by accident or by intent, is causing
severe problems in many parts of the world ranging from Australia to Europe. These include
some of the most obvious, such as tiger mosquitoes and North American bullfrogs in Italy, red-eared terrapins and coypu in France, raccoons and racoon dogs in Germany, grey squir-
rels and wallabies in England, or ring-neck parrots and north African vipers in Spain. But then there are numerous other organisms such as the Latin American water hyacinth now
clogging waterways across the globe, or the Argentinian ant displacing local species - con-
sidered agriculturally invaluable pollinators - in Hawaii. As Elizabeth Kemf writes, invasive species rank as a critical cause of biodiversity loss and species extinction, and in addition are a global threat to food security and livelihoods. Their expansion is also increasingly linked to the impacts of climate change.
FLORIDA IS PAYING BOUNTY HUNTERS, for the third year in a row to capture thousands of Burmese Pythons that have overrun the Everglades, a vast area of subtropical wetlands, lakes and rivers, stretching from the southern tip of Florida to Lake Okeechobee in the heart of the state. So far, more than 2,500 Burmese pythons have been “humanely euthanized”. Over 1,000 enthusiasts applied to search for the secretive serpents. Only 50 got the job. They are helping eradicate the snakes that are set free as unwanted pets, or escapees like those that fled breeding facilities demolished when Category 5 Hurricane Andrew unleashed its might in Miami and its environs in 1992. The hunters’ territory is also growing as the Burmese Python in the U.S. migrates north beyond the Florida border into neighbouring Georgia. The constricting snake originates in the marshes and jungles of Southeast Asia, but has established a strong hold in the Everglades, “a very slow-moving, shallow river”, dominated by sawgrass. The reptiles sometimes grow up to 23 feet (7 metres) in length and are indiscriminate eaters preying on native species including marsh rabbits, deer, wading birds, opossum, and alligators. In April of this year a 17-foot (nearly 5.2m)-long female python, the largest ever captured at Big Cypress National Preserve in the Everglades, weighed 140lb (over 63kg) and contained 73 developing eggs. While Florida strives to eliminate Invasive NonNative Species (INNS) such as destructive snakes, fish, insects, and plants, some countries in Asia are breeding Burmese and reticulated pythons in captivity and
partnering with IUCN’s Boa and Python Specialist Group (BPSG) to foster cooperation between conservationists, governments and the private sector in the promising future of biotrade.
COSTS FOR COUNTERING INVASIVE SPECIES ARE SKYROCKETING In Florida and elsewhere it is becoming illegal to release INNS into the wild. They are one of the top five threats to the environment costing the U.S. economy at least $120 billion a year according to a 2005 study. Given the sharp increase in invasive species not only in the U.S. but also in all countries, the outlays are skyrocketing. A report just released by the U.K. government states that £1.8 billion is spent ($2.3 billion) annually and much more is “needed to tackle the threat”. The report emphasizes that “it is hundreds to thousands of times cheaper to prevent invasive species from establishing”, rather than eliminating after they have taken root. The first line of defence against invasion are biosecurity measures and closing pathways of entry including: horticulture escapes, contaminants of ornamental plants, ballast water and hull fouling, stowaways on planes, in suitcases, trains, or fishing equipment, contaminants of aquaculture animals, and escapes by pets, and from botanic gardens or zoos. Invasive plant pathogens can be extremely dangerous. A non-native fungus, now present in the UK, has caused severe ash dieback. Caused by a nonnative fungus, the disease was first reported in Poland
in 1992, and in the UK in 2012 after it was picked up in a nursery in the Netherlands. Dutch elm disease is another example of a pathogen epidemic that has resulted in the loss of billions of elm trees globally. Janett Taylor, who has managed the botanic gardens for 40 years at the Ormond Memorial Art Museum in central Florida — minutes from where I live adjacent to Tomoka State Park — guided me to what she said was the Garden’s centrepiece, a tall robust Dutch Elm tree. “It’s a non-native species to which we have given shelter and it flourishes, despite the dieback of elms elsewhere in the U.S. Not all nonnative species are invasive and not Scientists placing a detector into a captured python for tracking. (Photo: Mike Gauldin, USGS) all native species aren’t harmful.” She handed me a field guide victims in France in 2018, one of the hottest years on to native and invasive plant species in the Gardens, record with scorching temperatures in summer and a which welcomes visitors to “find inspiration in nature” mild winter. Global Geneva’s Editor, Edward Girardet, and learn the difference between some Florida native spotted one in Cessy, France, in gardens near Geneva. and non-native species. The brochure illustrates plants The carnivorous predators prey on insects including that look alike, but warns visitors against mistaking the critically-endangered honeybee in addition to the golden petals of Wedelia, which can take over exacerbating health threats which are causing massive landscapes, for Beach Sunflowers. The sunflowers declines in honey bee colonies. The falling beekeeping attract butterflies, flowering in Florida’s sandy dunes production has wiped out many beekeepers’ income, as and gardens “year-round in hot, dry sites”. well as millions of vital pollinators.
GROWING GLOBAL CONCERN TO ERADICATE INVASIVE SPECIES According to the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC): “Alien Invasion is second only to habitat loss as a cause of species endangerment and extinction.” Lead author of the U.K. report, Dr Hanno Seebens, warns that up to 16 per cent of all animal and plant species have the potential to become invasive alien species (IAS). Europe is clearly concerned as are a growing number of nations. “Spain is literally the paradise for invasive parrot species in Europe,” according to Parrots Daily News. Monk parakeets throng in London along the Thames near Kew Gardens . So do Ring-neck Parrots and Quaker Parrots in Barcelona near the Gaudi Cathedral, and Barking Deer can be seen outside Henley near London. They might all delight tourists and locals but they are invasives, no matter how benign. So are the not-so-cute Desert Horned Vipers from Morocco spreading up into Spain, or deadly mosquitoes migrating north into temperate regions carrying illnesses such as dengue and Zika, first detected in Uganda in 1952, and now spreading in South America, or the lethal Asian hornet found everywhere in France. It is believed to have hitchhiked in a pottery shipment from China in 2004, and was discovered in Britain in 2016. The hornets' nests were weaponized during the Vietnam war and its sting can induce anaphylactic shock. The hornets claimed the lives of a number of
INVASIVE SPECIES TAKE TOLL OF SOUTH AFRICA’S WATER SUPPLY For centuries, people all over the planet have – with the best intentions or unwittingly or accidentally – introduced thousands of fungi, plant, and animal species into the wild. In the U.S. these include the common tumbleweed (originally from Russia), European starlings, snake-head fish from Africa and Asia and the Sirex woodwasp. Native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa, the Sirex have also spread to South Africa. First detected in 1962, the tree-crunching wasp threatens the country’s 16-billion-rand ($1 billion) forestry industry. In addition, North America’s smallmouth bass has “outcompeted indigenous fish species” in South Africa, concludes a 2017 report released by the National Biodiversity Institute. The report holds that invasive species are “responsible for a quarter of the country’s biodiversity losses”. Invasive plant species suck up South Africa’s water so rapidly that Cape Townv was just 90 days away from turning off the taps last year. The low water-supply was compounded by a three-year drought, which some scientists attribute to climate change. Day Zero – the point at which its municipal water supply would be shut off – was averted by enforcement and compliance of strict water restrictions. “Threatened by one of the worst-ever drought-induced municipal water crises, residents became water-wise,” says the Swiss-based
FROM THE FIELD | Citizens and Scientists Battle Invasive Species
World Economic Forum. “People were instructed to shower for no longer than two minutes. A campaign with the slogan ‘If it’s yellow, let it mellow’ promoted flushing the toilet only when necessary. And the use of recycled water – so-called greywater – was also pushed”. Today, the city’s parched dams are over 80 per cent full. However, South Africa is not letting its guard down. The country knows that invasive alien plants (IAPs) threaten water security and intensify the impact of extreme weather events, including severe droughts, floods, and forest fires. It is estimated that invasive plants cover about 10 per cent of the country and the problem is growing. Since its inception in 1995, South Africa’s Working for Water (WfW) programme has cleared more than one million hectares of IAPs. A silver lining is that such clearance is providing jobs and training to around 20,000 people from the most marginalized sectors of society per annum. Of these, 52 per cent are women. The water hyacinth, originally from South America, is choking South Africa’s dams and waterways. It is rampant throughout Africa, Asia, Oceania and North America, including Lake Okeechobee in central Florida, limiting oxygen and sunlight. Destructive “infestations have impacted fish levels, blocked navigation routes, increased disease and affected access to water by reducing hydropower capacity,” according to the Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species (GRIIS). The GRIIS database uses a series of country-specific checklists to help governments highlight problem invasive species and offers a basis for countries to prepare their own national strategies to combat invasive species. The good news is that growing numbers of farming communities in Thailand, for instance, are now harvesting water hyacinth not only to keep the canals clear, but to process them into readily-marketed plant fertilizer. This year’s landmark UN global assessment report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), released in May 2019, concludes that invasive species’ numbers have risen by around 70 per cent since 1970. They have contributed to 40 per cent of animal extinctions over the past 400 years and are the biggest threat to biodiversity on islands.
NEW ZEALAND’S CITIZEN SCIENTISTS AND VOLUNTEERS: A MODEL FOR OTHER COUNTRIES New Zealand, whose diverse population is expected to reach 5 million in 2020, is a “world leader” in biosecurity with governments around the globe heaping praise on its Biosecurity Strategy 2025. The small multiisland-nation points out that “Biosecurity 2025 is a partnership between people, organisations, Māori, and central, local and regional government. Its aim is to make our biosecurity system more resilient and futurefocused to protect our taonga (treasured things) and New Zealand from pests and diseases”.
Asian Hornet Vesa Velutina (PHOTO: Daniel Solabarrieta)
Targets include ensuring that: • 75 per cent of adult New Zealanders understand what biosecurity means and why it is important • 100,000 New Zealanders regularly act to control plant or animal pests in their community (400,000+ people currently are estimated to be part of a community group that manages weeds or pests) • 90 per cent of businesses are actively managing pests and disease risk. The initial focus will be on the five international risk pathways: craft, mail, cargo, passengers, and express freight. Later this will be extended to domestic risk pathways, such as coastal shipping and movement of equipment between farms. By 2025 at least 150,000 people with identified skills can be quickly drawn on to respond to biosecurity outbreaks. Citizens will report sightings or release of invasive species to a hotline or to local agencies. There is no blacklist of what can’t be imported into New Zealand. Rather there is an approved list of what can be in order to protect its environment, flora, fauna, and human health. It is a role model for biosecurity, biodiversity and citizen science. The team will soon be five million strong.
SEE FULL ARTICLE ONLINE @ GLOBAL-GENEVA.COM ELIZABETH KEMF is a journalist, anthropologist, writer, and a member of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas and of Tomoka Poets. She currently lives adjacent to the Tomoka State Park and the Tomoka Marsh Aquatic Reserve in Florida after several decades of campaigning with international environmental organizations based in Switzerland.
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Time to do something about social media perverting our kids Edward Girardet
While social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google are supposedly facilitating our lives, they are also steadily undermining our societies, and particularly our children. While much of this is based on both sponsored and unintentional propagation of disinformation, lies, 'alternative facts' and so-called fake news, people are finding it increasingly difficult to discern what is credible â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and what is not. And yet we continue to allow these powerful networks - but also the political and commercial interests that manipulate them - to get away with blatant cyber abuse. There are at least two effective ways of countering such violations of trust: one is to make youth more aware in schools; the other is to support quality journalism in the public interest.
WHAT ARE YOUNG PEOPLE – our new generation of the future – supposed to think when the President of the United States – the supposed “leader of the free world” - lies or fabricates information virtually every day on Twitter, one of the world’s largest social media platforms with over 125 million daily users? For a man who racked up over 13,400 false or misleading claims (almost 22 a day), according to The Washington Post, during his first 1,000 days of office (primarily via Tweets), this may be a virtue. But it is a disgrace for much of the world. It also says very little for Twitter. The Californian-based company, which is steadily losing users, claims to ban anyone who promotes hatred, racism, and terrorism, which I assume also means gun violence or attacks against freedom of the press. Yet all such themes are well-integrated into Trump’s daily abuse of the truth. So far, Twitter has not removed him from its listings. According to Twitter, “world leaders” are meant to abide by the rules as with anyone else; in reality, however, their Tweets are largely allowed free rein because they supposedly enter into the domain of “newsworthiness.” Contributing cartoonist Jeff Danziger is a member of Cartooning for Peace, a Global Geneva media partner.
LIES BECOME THE NEW ‘TRUTH’ The end result is that Trump continues to lie, while politicians, despots and other cyber abusers from Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Hungary’s Viktor Orbán are all using the same tactics to misrepresent the truth. The overall message is that if you shamefacedly lie enough, you can get away with it. Lies become the new ‘truth’. Are social media really improving our lives? Or manipulating them to the benefit of massive cyber companies? Similarly, Facebook, another cyber platform – but with 1.26 billion users - claims to be doing everything possible to prevent incitement of racism or hatred by engaging thousands of fact-checkers. Yet it continues to allow sponsored political advertising, some of it knowingly based on deception or outright lies. When British director/comedian Baron Sasha Cohen last month lambasted Facebook during a keynote speech to the Anti-Defamation League, he was right on the mark for characterizing Facebook along with Twitter and Google, as caring more “about boosting their share price than sharing democracy.” He also accused them of practising “ideological imperialism” whereby a few billionaires can determine what information people are allowed to see – and without accountability.
SOCIAL MEDIA: UNDERMINING DEMOCRACY While these big tech companies have promoted far more division in the United States than any other propaganda machine ever invented (Goebbels would have been a fan), the promotion of Brexit leading up to
the 2016 UK referendum was also heavily infused with disinformation and a blatant manipulating of the facts, including by firms such as Cambridge Analytica. While Cambridge Analytica was finally dismantled as criminal, the dissemination of falsehoods continues. For a country purporting to be a democracy, Britain is allowing such propaganda to persist. For example, one can only watch with dismay at the way many parliamentary members on both sides of the aisle seem to accept that the referendum on whether to Remain or Leave was legitimate, including the disenfranchising of citizens by denying anyone living overseas more than 15 years the right to vote. Switzerland, which allows every passport holder to cast a ballot no matter where they live, or for how long, earlier this year obliged organizers to rehold a referendum because it was determined that voters had not been properly informed. The new result proved to be a complete reversal of the initial plebiscite.
YOUNG PEOPLE: TWITTER AND FACEBOOK ARE NOT ON THEIR RADAR The good news is that young people, notably Millennials, are ignoring Twitter and Facebook. And even conventional 'boomer' users are turning away, or spending less time on their platforms. And yet, what these cyber giants represent, including control over our lives, is frightening. Perhaps more than any other social media vehicle, Facebook actively promotes social and political division, including hatred, racism and bigotry.
FACEBOOK: ENCOURAGING ISOLATED COMMUNITIES – AND MAKING A FORTUNE OUT OF IT More specifically, Facebook hones in on the interests and gripes of individuals, whether human rights advocates, right-wing extremists or tropical fish breeders, catering to their profiles and making a hell of a lot of money through targeted advertising. The end result is that both Twitter and Facebook are making fortunes off our backs ranging from advertising and sponsorship to their own selling of data. So why should they kill the cyber goose if they can make billions? But if young people are not attracted by Twitter or Facebook, where are they getting their information? And why should we be so concerned? The reality is that they’re obsessed by Instagram and Whatsapp (both owned by Facebook), YouTube (owned by Google), SnapChat and other messaging services. And Google, for high school or university research. Given that Facebook and Google have largely cornered the market on these main providers (except for Snapchat), does it really matter that young people are switching, or ignoring them? Like cigarettes, the brand is irrelevant; all are lethal and all are proving just as detrimental to the well-being of our kids.
Youth Writes: Determining what is credible – and what is not. (Photo: E. Girardet)
Are high school students accessing the credible information they need? (American cartoonist and Global Geneva contributor is a member of Cartooning for Peace, a Global Geneva partner.)
GOOGLE: CONTROLLING ACCESS TO INFORMATION Take Google with over 2.45 billion monthly active users. Virtually all under 20-year-olds I have questioned in recent months say that they use Google to gather information for high school or college essays. But how many actually go beyond Page One in their searches? Almost none. When I point out that the first 5-6 items on Page One are sponsored (ie. paid-for placements) they look at me in amazement. Then I ask whether they know how the next 5-6 items have managed to make their way to positions just below, but still on Page One? They have no idea. And yet such placements depend on algorithms or indirect advertising and paid promotion. Many do not necessarily represent the best sources of information. The same goes for Instagram and YouTube. Several students recently told me that they rely on Instagram for their information. But what sort of information? I ask with persistence. “I don’t know. Instagram information?” one suggested to me.
DETERMINING WHAT IS CREDIBLE – AND WHAT IS NOT Then come all the videos, postings, articles, links and other information sources promoted en masse via online messaging. Few really know whether what they are reading – or seeing – is credible. But it’s posted by their friends, so it must be okay. Without doubt, many of the videos you can see on YouTube or Vimeo are fine. But what about those which are fabricated and passed off as credible? And which ones are carefully designed to misinform? As part of Global Geneva’s Youth Writes programme, we are finding that few young people have any idea how real journalism functions. Nor do they grasp that anything read or viewed online, whether as part of a blog, a video posting or a purportedly ‘true’ story, is not necessarily correct. This is where trusted journalism can play a significant role in helping young people better understand what is out there and why they need to be more than vigilant in deciding whether they can believe it or not. Of course, it’s not easy. Not even for well-informed adults. Young people are coming under incessant pressures from their peers – but also insidiously – commercial marketing to base one’s existence on social media, particularly mobile phones. This is causing major problems.
SMART PHONES ARE BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH For one, the constant squinting at small screens is now proving ruinous to young people’s eyesight. Many also complain that obsessive phone use is leading to depression – even suicidal tendencies - with users feeling left out or shunned if they do not respond to constant social messaging. Last month, a London King’s College report based on 41 studies from Asia, Europe and America noted that nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of over 40,000 smart phone users (17-19 years-old) have developed addictive behaviour by becoming ‘panicky’ or ‘upset’ if denied constant access. The study maintained that such addiction was having serious consequences on the mental health. It was also affecting sleep and school work, including reading and writing abilities.
READING CAPABILITIES HAVE DIMINISHED IN COUNTRIES SUCH AS SWITZERLAND The latest 2018 OECD PISA (Programme for International Assessment) results, which suggest a serious deterioration in reading skills, note that over 10 million students (one in 10 students in the canvassed OECD region of 79 high and middle income countries) could not command even the most basic reading abilities. Nor could they determine whether a text is fact or opinion. It added that over 95 per cent of students now have access to the Internet, spending three hours or more online a day. Switzerland was one of those countries that has shown a striking decline in reading and now stands at 28th. This only underlines justified concerns with the way social media are increasingly fueling opinion while undermining factual insight. Similarly, in our discussions with high school teachers and college professors, we have discovered increasing concern that more and more high school students are graduating unable to write properly. They are also far less culturally aware; many have a shockingly poor sense of history, geography and the Arts. Teachers believe that the constant use and abuse of mobile phones coupled with questionable social media are a major cause of this dysfunctionality. Parents, too, tell us that they have no idea what to do. This is reflected in our conversations with representatives from international Chambers of Commerce from Geneva to Bangkok. Many point out that young people seeking to succeed in business would be far better served by cultivating more appropriate and worldly-aware cultural backgrounds, particularly if they are planning to operate overseas. As one British corporate CEO recently pointed out to me: “We want people to know what’s going on in the world, including how to deal with counterparts whether in China, Saudi Arabia or New York. I want to see them reading The Economist or the FT, but also the local press. This is important. I want to know that they read books, are ready to learn another language, go to museums, know something about art... Social media messaging does not
represent a credible news source.” Another expressed concern is that much of the information disseminated online is not even retained. Users tend to skim through content rather than actually read. As Pew Foundation and other research sources have shown, people retain information up to 40 per cent more effectively when read on paper in a newspaper or magazine than online. The same goes for writing by hand. That’s how the brain functions. We’re beginning to see a return to note taking with yellow legal pads and sitting down with a book or a magazine. Based on our focus groups, young people are more willing to read articles properly in our print edition than online. Millennials are also ignoring social media advertising they find it annoying - obliging some cyber companies to start reverting to print platforms, a surprising new trend. Young people are not “rediscovering” print but rather “discovering” it. So this is where we are today. Clearly, some young people are media savvy. They rely on their teachers, their parents, their friends and respected role models for pointers on where to obtain information. But most do not understand the need for credible ‘sources’. In many ways, we are churning out a new form of illiteracy. And yet, most of us – whether teachers or parents - remain perplexed. How can you counter the cyber gods? Or mobile phones? The French have now banned smart phones from schools. This is probably good, but it’s not going to resolve the problem. Social media are here to stay with all their cyber hazards. Participants at a November, 2019 Cyber Security Conference at the World Economic Forum in Geneva warned that we must now start engaging young people, particularly in schools, by alerting them to the threats of cyber abuse. And how to avert them. This has become a huge social responsibility. Maybe it’s time the United Nations Human Rights Agency (UNHCHR) finally creates a major section dealing with cyber abuse and not be afraid to condemn the Facebooks of this world. We need to make young people more aware of the dangers of cyber subversion and how to function in a more balanced, informed and, above all, critical manner. We need to bring quality journalism into schools in order to demonstrate the importance of properly reported information. But, most important, not to rely on one source, but several – or more. This means encouraging young people to decide which media they are willing to grant their trust, perhaps selecting three or four options. These could be BBC, Al Jazeera, New York Times, Le Monde, Guardian, The Economist, Daily Mail, Globe and Mail, Tribune de Geneve…That’s up to them. But we need to help them. If we don’t, then we will be condemning entire new generations to literary mediocrity and social ignorance. And it will be our fault. EDWARD GIRARDET, a foreign correspondent and author, is
editor of Global Insight magazine (global-geneva.com) and director of the Youth Writes programme.
Adventures with the Cambridge terminator William Thatcher Dowell
Information skeptics often joke that the main problem with today’s Artificial Intelligence,
or AI, is that it is still not very intelligent. Intelligent or not, Christopher Wylie’s new book, “Mindf*ck” maintains that AI algorithms played a critical role in creating the recent political
upsets that resulted in Brexit and the surprising electoral upset that enabled Donald Trump to become president of the United States.
HE DRIVING FORCE BEHIND BOTH EVENTS , Wylie insists, was a previously little known contractor, Cambridge Analytica, created in 2014. Wylie has direct knowledge of what he is talking about. After finishing his studies at the London School of Economics, he was one of the conceptual architects of the strategy that made Cambridge Analytica into a formidable force. Wylie, a Canadian, had gone to work for the Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, SCL, not long after finishing his studies at the London School of Economics. The acronym, SCL, stands for Strategic Communication Laboratories, and the small consulting organization advertised itself as one of the first privately owned “psychological warfare” consultancies.
DEALING WITH POLITICAL INSTABILITY AND ELECTORAL MANIPULATION The company’s early clients were corporations dealing with political instability in far-flung locations of the planet,
but it quickly shifted its marketing focus to European ministries of defence, interested in extracting and analysing information from social media that could be used to influence and counteract insurgencies and extremist groups. Recruitment of European candidates by jihadist groups like ISIS would have been a typical target. SCL also offered to influence third world elections in Africa and Central Asia, when it might be to everyone’s advantage to keep a corrupt dictator or potential warlord from seizing power. With Barack Obama elected to a second term in the United States, SCL managed to catch the attention of Robert Mercer, an extreme rightwing billionaire who had made his fortune first as a computer scientist working at IBM’s research facility and then as co-CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund invested in advanced technologies. Hardly a liberal, Mercer was an opponent of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a major pivot point in ending segregation in the United States. Mercer was convinced that government intervention aimed at empowering African-Americans had been a mistake. After Obama’s success, Mercer became the largest single donor to the Republican Party.
WINNING ELECTIONS: A SOCIAL ENGINEERING PROBLEM It was not long before he encountered Steve Bannon, who had taken over Breitbart, an extreme rightwing website, with neo-fascist leanings. Intrigued by the possibilities of SCL, Mercer decided to buy it and to put Bannon in charge. As Wylie explains in his book, “Mercer looked at winning elections as a social engineering problem. The way to ‘fix society’ was by creating simulations. If we could quantify society inside a computer, optimize that system and then replicate that system outside the computer, we could remake America in his image.” Mercer couldn’t use SCL to influence an American election directly, since it was a British company. The solution was to create a new company, Cambridge Analytica, incorporated in Delaware, and then to outsource Cambridge Analytica’s work to SCL. Mercer put up a mere $15 million for a 90 per cent interest in Cambridge Analytica and placed Bannon in charge. The beauty in the manoeuver was that since Mercer was simply buying a company, he didn’t have to report the purchase as a campaign contribution; he was already the single biggest contributor to the Republican campaign. He had started by backing Ted Cruz, but shifted his focus to Trump with apparently little difficulty. Since Cambridge
Analytica was an American company, the formula enabled SCL to discretely export technology that was technically classified as sensitive military software in Britain.
THE NEW TERMINATOR: NOT HALTING INSURGENCIES, BUT CREATING THEM Robert Mercer has his own ideas about politics and society. He has one of the largest private collections of machine guns in America along with the weapon that Arnold Schwarzenegger brandished in his Terminator films. But once Steve Bannon took over, the political angle was definitely his. Bannon had briefly made a name for himself in Hollywood and had then gone on to run a computer game company in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong experience introduced him to social media networks such as reddit and 4chan, and that connection subsequently led him to realise that the anonymity of the net gives free rein to quite a bit of suppressed anger. Bannon’s brilliant insight once he had assumed control of Cambridge Analytica, was that its real strength (using SCL’s technology) was not in stopping insurgency, but rather in creating it. Most elections are zero sum affairs with both sides nearly evenly matched. If you could add just one or two percentage points to your side, you could win.
The trick was to target a particularly vulnerable sector of society that normally would never bother voting and inflame the band of misfits into becoming a new addition to the normal assortment of voters. According to Wylie, Bannon sensed that modern, semi-educated white American men resented the current social revolution. Straight white men had never had to modify their speech around women or people of different races in the past because misogyny and casual racism were already normalised behaviour. In the current social revolution, men felt that they suddenly had to censor themselves or be socially ostracised. Casual flirting in the workplace was out. Racist jokes could threaten your job. Adjusting to the change required a great deal of energy. If you could identify the alienated, Bannon reasoned, and feed them a diet of conspiracy theories that fuelled their anger, it might be enough to swing an election.
THE KEY: ACCESSING FACEBOOK FOLLOWED BY GOOGLE AND AMAZON Cambridge Analytica figured that in the U.S. an additional 70,000 strategically-placed votes might carry enough swing states needed to win the electoral college. SCL, which had gained access to the work of social psychologists at Cambridge University, knew the manipulations needed to do just that. The key was access to Facebook data. In the 1940s, psychologists had developed a test known as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). The test consisted of more than 500 seemingly random questions, which were put to people with known psychiatric disorders and then given to apparently normal students. By co-relating the response patterns, one could presumably spot tendencies to disorders like depression, hypochondria, hysteria, etc. The enormous quantities of personal information collected online by Facebook, Google and Amazon provided infinitely more information and enough computing power now existed to profile nearly everyone on an individual basis. The data was provided by a psychologist working at Cambridge, Alexandre Kogan. Using an online game he had set up as part of a research project, Kogan was able to obtain access to several thousand Facebook users. What no one realised at the time was that Kogan could also gain access to all the friends that each of his users were in touch with. Cambridge Analytica quickly expanded its access to individually profile hundreds of millions of potential voters. In a demonstration for Bannon, a name of a potential voter was picked at random in Nebraska. Cambridge Analytica was able to immediately show a picture of the voter, a woman, on the screen and show her latest actions and preferences in real time. A phone call to the woman confirmed the data that Cambridge Analytica had anonymously collected.
TRUMP LOST THE POPULAR VOTE BY THREE MILLION, BUT WON THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE. For Cambridge Analytica it was relatively easy to filter out those potential voters most vulnerable to psychological manipulation. Once they had been identified, local meetings were arranged with maybe twenty or thirty likeminded participants collecting in a local coffee shop. Small clusters were connected to other clusters through local events and they were kept in contact by a constant flood of social media into which flooded strategically chosen ads and fabricated news stories, psychologically engineered to achieve a desired reaction. The effect spread like a virus. In the US, the wellspring of anger generated by the false information was enough to swing critically important states. Trump lost the popular ballot by three million votes, but he won the electoral college. During his campaign, Trump had shown an affinity with Vladimir Putin. For their part, the Russians had demonstrated an intense interest in Cambridge Analytica, and they helped the Trump mission by purloining and then leaking stolen Democratic emails via Julian Assange and Wikileaks.
ILLEGAL DECEPTION CREATED IN SUPPORT OF BREXIT
Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had previously worked with pro-Russian clients to influence elections in the Ukraine. Trump’s preferences were not only for Russians, however; he was also in contact with France’s extreme right National Front and with Britain’s Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit campaign. Mercer had wanted Britain out of the European Union, and Cambridge Analytica played a major role in liberally applying the same tactics to the Brexit campaign. As for Bannon, his goal appeared to be to free white men from the strictures of modern society, by enabling them to openly express their inner instincts and prejudices in order to become once again “free thinkers”. Nietzsche had had similar notions which provided an intellectual structure for Hitler’s adventures into fascism. It was not a pretty picture. Once knowledge began to surface revealing what Cambridge Analytica had done, its owners shut it down. The experience and technology it developed, however, remain very much alive. Once Christopher Wylie realised the direction that Cambridge Analytica was taking, he was horrified at the Frankenstein monster he had helped create. He resigned after nine months, then agreed to testify in order to alert the US Congress to what he had done. Social media quickly turned against him, and Wylie discovered just how difficult it is to be anonymous in today’s interconnected world. His book, nevertheless, makes fascinating reading, if only as a preview of even more sinister things to come.
Foreign correspondent and author WILLIAM THATCHER DOWELL is Global Geneva's America’s editor.
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The Capital of Civilization
Brexit, populism and the 150th anniversary of the Siege of Paris
Spreading populist impulses and Brexit turmoil now creating frictions in Europe are reasons to ponder the 150th anniversary in 2020 of dire events in Paris and their consequences. (Also see editor's note at the end of this piece on its impact on Switzerland). David Lawday, who is writing a novel entitled â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The Capital of
Civilisationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; based on the Prussian siege of Paris in 1870, explains:
IT MAY BE NO SURPRISE IF THE 150TH ANNIVERSARY of the Prussian army’s descent on Paris with the largest siege force ever assembled draws few headlines. The seeds of woe it planted — a first world war leading inexorably to a second, even in some part the Russian Revolution – have understandably left a deeper impression on the world’s consciousness than their source. Yet The Capital of Civilisation, while a novel, holds to the historical facts of events that are telling enough of themselves to warrant reflection in 2020. At sun up on 15 September 1870, the townsfolk of little Neuilly-sur-Marne on the wooded eastern outskirts of Paris awake to a strange sound. An intermittent patter, growing louder into a steady crunch. Those who open their shutters this glorious Indian summer morning spy figures in dark uniform moving cautiously down the cobbled main street, bayonets faintly glinting in the first shafts of sunlight, eyes shifting from side to side beneath spiked helmets. Then comes a larger company in loose formation, more confident and purposeful of step. Behind them rumbles a gun carriage bearing a stubby cannon escorted by a pair of jangling Uhlan cavalrymen.
EARLY RISERS RUN TO BOLT THEIR DOORS IN SHOCK. The Marne riverside community is the first of the French capital’s outlying townships to witness the `barbarians’ come marching through. The shock for its inhabitants is in the timing. The invaders are descending upon Paris at ungodly speed. Only yesterday the town elders began leaving to seek shelter within the walls of the capital a few kilometres distant. In the long summer weeks of 1870 before the Prussian advance guard moves through Neuilly-sur-Marne, France’s proud imperial army is camped on the French border in the east, Emperor Napoleon III mounted on horseback at its head. Imperial France considers herself a military match for any power on earth. The army is raring to drive across the Rhine to humble a bumptious Prussia. `To Berlin!’ rises the roar from Paris cafes. National ganders are up on both sides of the Rhine. The French are fighting to uphold their supremacy on the continent and, they like to believe, to defend European civilisation. The Prussians are fighting for a just God, for long-burning revenge against the monstrous bullying of an earlier Napoleon and, less wittingly in the mind of the Prussian soldiery, to advance an immense project that Otto von Bismarck, their prime minister, has made it his life’s ambition to accomplish. For the French, things soon go disastrously wrong. After a promising start to hostilities, French arms suddenly collapse. On 2 September 1870 Napoleon’s army is crushed at Sedan on the edge of the Ardennes, its survi-
vors taken prisoner to a man. To crown the humiliation, Napoleon, the nephew of the greatest conqueror since Julius Caesar, is among the captives. For Paris, all this is unthinkable. Enraged and indignant, Napoleon’s political opponents in Paris dethrone him in his absence and declare France a republic. Now it’s the turn of the Berlin cafes to roar. Nach Paris! The invasion force that descends on Paris is 400,000-strong when fully assembled, its Prussian core joined for the first time by troops from sovereign south German states – Bavaria, Wurttemberg, Baden, Saxony too. Bismarck has devised this war, set it up, inveigled Napoleon into declaring it. Bismarck’s calculation is that Prussia must defeat France for his grand scheme of unifying all Germany to succeed. Undefeated, France will surely re-exert its old sway over the south Germans, rendering unification unattainable. Defeating France, however, requires more than crushing Napoleon’s army in the field, it means taking Paris. Taking the City of Light. The greatest city on earth. The capital embellished anew of late by Baron Haussmann, Napoleon III’s prodigious city planner. Paris is France – the heart, brain, pride, culture, centre of all things French. From Henry V of England to the monarchs of Europe who brought down Napoleon Bonaparte, opponents of France have grasped the supreme psychological importance of entering Paris as victors. This time, Paris is destined to suffer worse than ever it has in the past. Rather than launch a risky direct assault on the walled city, Marshal Helmuth von Moltke, the Prussian army commander, resolves to starve its two-million citizens into capitulating by laying siege. Paris is suddenly cut off from the world, telegraph lines severed, all fresh food supplies halted down to the last carrot. But the people of Paris – its prominent bourgeois ranks, its industrious proletariat, its Red revolutionary contingent galvanised by the emperor’s fall – join in patriotic resistance to fend the invaders off. The population is convinced that Paris has half a million men at arms for the task, no matter that its cautious military command considers most of them unusable in combat. It is sheer madness, in the view of General Louis Trochu, the military governor, to think of throwing the ragtag National Guard recruits who constitute the bulk of the forces at his disposal – workshop hands, waiters, bakers, grooms, apprentices – into battle against hardened Prussian troops. To keep spirits high the new republican government announces that the capital has enough food in store to last two months ….. ….. Three months into the standoff between Parisians and their besiegers, amid the coldest winter in memory with the mercury plunging at times to minus fifteen centigrade, public transport bumps to a halt as the horses
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that draw omnibuses and fiacres move from the streets onto the hungering people’s table, along with stray dogs, cats, elephants and all the meaty jungle creatures from the Paris zoo. Attempted military breakouts, culminating in a brave mass sortie across the Marne, have a famished Paris holding its breath as barely trained guardsmen are sent into battle despite General Trochu’s deep misgivings. But against Moltke’s siege lines all French offensives come to nothing, and at heavy cost in lives. …. Four months into the siege, as sewer rats join the menu, the capital is subjected to day-and-night shelling by giant cannon which Moltke advances from his siege lines, a move to which he finally resorts at Bismarck’s impatient demand. …. Halfway into a fifth month of siege, Paris sues for an armistice, having braved the bombardment but forced now to accept that resistance cannot go on. The public larder is altogether bare. By this time Bismarck, desperate to achieve his goal, has decided to pre-empt an armistice and act as though Paris has already surrendered. By this means he is able to declare Germany unified — the German Empire, with King Wilhelm of Prussia its Emperor and he, Bismarck, its Chancellor. To rub salt into French wounds the ceremony is held in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles built to the glory of the Sun King Louis XIV, who took German lands across the Rhine into his realm. First among the tributes of war, the new German Empire annexes France’s prospering eastern provinces of Alsace and Lorraine. In Paris, emerging in resentful chaos from the siege, elections for a new city government produce a people’s Commune modelled on the one that ruled during the French Revolution of 1789, with Reds in the ascendancy. The new Commune governs the capital in radical reforming style for over two heady months until it is brutally crushed by the superior forces of a national government elected, with Bismarck’s parting encouragement, from across all France. In this furious civil-war struggle Communards are massacred; upwards of 25,000 Parisians, men and women, are killed or executed by fellow Frenchmen, and some of the finest monuments in the capital of civilisation including the magnificent medieval Hotel de Ville and the Tuileries Palace go up in flames. The consequences? Victor Hugo, the god of French letters who lives through them, vows that France will never rest until she has had her revenge — and Bismarck himself allows in so many words that the author of Les Misérables will inevitably be proven right. Whence the stirrings of World War One and so of the ensuing World War Two. An admiring Lenin, for his part, avows when imposing Communist rule on Russia to drawing inspiration from the ill-fated Commune, in particular from what it taught him to avoid. DAVID LAWDAY a Londoner, graduate of Oxford, former correspondent of The Economist in Paris, Washington DC and Berlin, is also the author of ‘Napoleon’s Master: A life of Prince Talleyrand’ and of ‘Danton: The Giant of the French Revolution’, both of which are published in English and in French. He lives in Paris. Lawday is currently putting the final touches to his novel on the Siege of Paris.
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Oceanus to Oceans
The Sea Affects All Things Lincoln Paine
The following article by maritime historian and oceans specialist Lincoln Paine is part of Global Insightâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ongoing Focus on Oceans
series. Writing from Portland, Maine, he notes that oceans impact
everyone on our planet. But today the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s oceans are dying and our survival as human beings depends on doing something about it.
CCORDING TO THE ANCIENT GREEKS, THE EARTH was encompassed by a world ocean that was the source of all water on earth, salt and fresh, and personified by Oceanus. It is an arresting concept, and one that proved far ahead of its time. Even in the classical era, rationalist writers such as Herodotus began rejecting the idea: “I cannot help laughing at the absurdity of all the map-makers—there are plenty of them— who show Ocean running like a river around a perfectly circular earth.” By late antiquity, in the popular imagination Oceanus was identified with the more distant – though increasingly accessible – waters of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, an association that endured. In due course, Westerners lent the Titan’s name to the Pacific, Arctic, and Southern Oceans.
THE OCEANS: NO LONGER A TWO-DIMENSIONAL CONCEPT Just as the myth of Oceanus has a history, so does the sea itself, although it is only in the past decade or two that people have begun to see it as an historical agent. Before then, the ocean was viewed as an essentially two-dimensional space over which ships carried people for trade or war – or to explore. Although fish live there, no one had any idea of the extremes of its third dimension until the 19th century. Thus, in 1864, Henry David Thoreau could cast a superficial gaze across its surface and write, “We do not associate the idea of antiquity with the ocean, nor wonder how it looked a thousand years ago, as we do of the land, for it was equally wild and unfathomable always.” He was hardly alone in his assessment. But we shouldn’t give our forebears a pass on their Flat Sea Society take on the world. The ocean’s depths were being plumbed by the time Thoreau wrote. The laying of a transatlantic cable in 1858 had given the world some sense of its bottom contours, and its farthest reaches would be identified by the scientists of the Challenger expedition of 1872–76, a British naval enterprise whose discoveries laid the foundations of modern-day oceanography. More perceptive minds would have noted that the sea was not always equally wild. Augustus had relocated the Roman fleet from Portus Julius to Misenum to protect local oyster beds (See Global Geneva article on oysters by Abigail Carroll), themselves an early example of aquaculture and the domestication of the sea. Overfishing of cod had driven Europeans across the North Atlantic in the 16th century in search of new fisheries, which in turn laid the foundation for the settlement of Atlantic Canada and New England.
COPING WITH DEPLETED FISH STOCKS Fishing from dories, a traditional shallow-draft fishing boat, which gave us Winslow Homer’s iconic image of the Grand Banks fisherman, The Fog Warning, began in the 1850s. But this practice emerged because depleted stocks
of cod, halibut and other species forced fishermen to enlarge the area over which they fished by setting hooked “longlines” from small boats carried on the deck of their schooners rather than simply dropping lines over the side of the vessel, which was the practice before then. Likewise, the overhunting of Atlantic whales had long since pushed whalers into the Pacific where, in 1850, a Hawai’ian newspaper published a letter from a “Polar Whale” appealing “to the friends of the whole race of whales. Must we all be murdered,” he pleaded. “Must our race become extinct?” The sea was most certainly not “equally wild and unfathomable always”, and armed with only pre-industrial technologies, humans are the reason why.
CAREFULLY MANAGED FISHING MAY NOT BE ENOUGH More recently, in 1992, the Canadian government closed the Newfoundland cod fishery to let the stocks rebound. They have not. The season for the Portuguese sardine fishery has been shortened to two months in 2019. In May of this year, the government of Bangladesh imposed a 65-day ban on coastal fishing. Every year, nets, trawls, and other fishing gear kill hundreds of thousands of cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walruses), and sea turtles as bycatch… One can view the oceans historically not just in terms of fisheries. However, these resonate with people immediately because they affect livelihoods, economies, cultural traditions, and eating habits worldwide. Seventeen per cent of the world’s protein derives from fish; in some developing countries, the figure is 70 per cent. Of all the ocean’s industries — and there are many — fisheries have the most immediate impact on people across the board. They also offer the clearest window into the health of the ocean and, thus, the health of ourselves. Not just your friend or relative or colleague, or a nameless artisanal fisherwoman half a world away, but you. Your life depends on the health of the ocean as we know it, and the ocean as we know it is, in a word, dying. The causes are many and well-known, including global warming and ice loss, oil and plastic pollution, excess nitrogen from agricultural runoff, untreated sewage, and acoustic pollution from seismic exploration for oil wells and military exercises, among many others. Regardless of where we live — and about 3 billion of us live within 200 kilometres of a seacoast susceptible to rising sea levels and intensifying storms — our individual and collective behaviours have a direct impact on the ocean environment that makes our lives possible. We now know those early Greeks were right all along: Oceanus does encircle the earth. We are all denizens of a massive archipelago, and the sea around us affects all things. The means to rescue us from ourselves are available, but to implement them we must acknowledge the ocean’s history, and how we have shaped it.
The Fog Warning. Painting by Winslow Homer (Photo: E. Girardet)
PROGRESS, FAR FROM CONSISTING IN CHANGE, DEPENDS ON RETENTIVENESS…. WHEN EXPERIENCE IS NOT RETAINED, AS AMONG SAVAGES, INFANCY IS PERPETUAL. THOSE WHO CANNOT REMEMBER THE PAST ARE CONDEMNED TO REPEAT IT. —George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense
And having done so, we must break the logjam of outmoded economic concepts, legal frameworks, and learned behaviours behind which the muddy waters of infantile inaction and indifference are rising, threatening to drown us in a deluge of catastrophes. As now practised, for instance, neither unfettered capitalism nor the Westphalian nation-state system of international law — laudable innovations though they once were — facilitates the sort of massively multiplayer solutions so desperately needed to save the ocean and ourselves. No one should starve to death or drown in service to a formerly good idea. To take one example, discussions about territorial claims in the South China Sea revolve around legal arguments about the “free sea” that antedate the Treaty of Westphalia by forty years. Were this not so tragic, it might be quaint. But rival claimants for this bit of
ocean are simultaneously engaged in overfishing and, to reinforce their claims, destroying the habitat upon which the fisheries depend. At this rate, the end of the world will come about not from expensive, sophisticated nuclear weapons but with fishing gear and concrete. The sea was not “equally wild and unfathomable always”. It has a history. Even dead, it has a future, too. The question is, do you? LINCOLN PAINE is the author of five books and more than 100
articles, chapters, reviews, and lectures on maritime history. His books include the award-winning The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World (Knopf, 2013, with translations into Chinese, Russian, and Romanian, and others pending), Down East: A Maritime History of Maine (Tilbury House, 2000), and Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia (Houghton Mifflin, 1997).
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You’re in the army now
An expat recruit’s experience in Switzerland’s militia Nikita Artamonov
Nikita Artamonov (second from left) with unit. (Photo: Nikita Artamonov)
As one of Europe’s most culturally mixed immigrant nations, Switzerland is witnessing the rise of a steadily growing group of citizens known as the ‘new’ Swiss. These are citizens of expatriate background, some born in Switzerland, others not, ranging from Kosovars and Spanish to British, Americans, Bangladeshis and Ugandans who have embraced Swiss nationality either through birth or naturalization. For many young people, joining the Swiss army is considered part of their new responsibilities. Nikita Artamonov, a 20-year-old student with a Russian-British-Swiss background who recently completed his four-and-a-half months' basic training, offers his personal view.
I AM DISMAYED TO FIND MYSELF AWAKE, at around 2 a.m. My eyelashes have frozen shut. It is -14°C. I am lying outside on icy mud, covered in dead, frosty leaves. The commanding officer has tasked our company with a survival bivouac exercise in the forest, despite warnings of ‘Siberian’ weather. My friend Alexei, a fellow recruit, thinks it funny to wake me up by poking my backside with his rifle. Despite my violent protests, he persists. Mercilessly, he drags me out of my sleeping-bag to start my night shift. My job is to keep the campfire going. I am also supposedly on ‘guard duty’ keeping a lookout for enemies, though what exactly that means in 21st-century Switzerland is uncertain. The pathetic fire we struggled so hard to light earlier is sputtering, evidently dissatisfied with my offerings of frozen sticks. Frustrated, I swear profusely in recently learned but broken Swiss-German, a dialect which even Germans let alone French or English speakers find hard to understand. And even then, there are many dialects depending on which part of the country you come from. The army, however, is keen that we learn each other’s tongues.
HANG ON, BUT WHY DOES SWITZERLAND HAVE AN ARMY? Most people know Switzerland for its mountains, luxury watches, chocolate and cheese. Some might even recount that this small, wealthy European country is famous for its neutrality. So most non-Swiss are surprised when I tell them that I served in the Swiss army. They are even more astonished when I tell them that my experience is closer to that of a Hollywood-style bootcamp rather than summer camping in the Alps. Furthermore, Switzerland’s “Rekrutenschule” or “Ecole de Recrues” in other words, basic training, is replete with tightly choreographed marching, target practice and crawling in mud – not much different from the American or British armies, all the while being constantly yelled at
SLEEP-DEPRIVED, MISERABLE AND DELIRIOUS I hear Alexei giggle as he tucks into his warm sleepingbag for an enviable night’s sleep. I am jealous because every minute of sleep counts in the army, and I am severely sleep-deprived. We get less than six hours of sleep, six nights a week, and tonight I barely got two. I am aching and cold, even after sticking my feet to cook in the fire. Thankfully though, I Swiss recruits on manoeuver (Photo: Nikita Artamonov) am not the only one obliged to by abusive sergeants. In fact, some 65 per cent of Swiss wake up for duty. At least I get some comfort from seeing men still undergo military training, victims of a seemingly another fellow-recruit, Amaran. He is suffering even more antiquated system of conscription most developed than me. He has woken up to find that the empty, plastic countries have long abandoned. packets from yesterday’s minced meat (which looked Over the past years, various reforms have significantly suspiciously like cat-food) have covered him with their cut back on Switzerland’s militia-based defence force, slime, swept up by the wind. which is not unlike the Israeli army. In the 1990s, the We are so miserable that we have become delirious. We army consisted of some 800,000 troops, but this decreased quickly cheer ourselves up by imagining more and more progressively to 400,000 and then 200,000. Today, it stands ridiculous scenarios of mutiny against the major. I am at barely 140,000 men with less than 10,000 full-time chuckling heartily until Amaran turns the conversation professionals. The age limit for serving was also reduced to make fun of me reminding me sadistically of a brutal to 34 with only 260 days of service. The ultimate goal is truth. I am on my gap year and should be on a beach in 100,000. Thailand. Instead, I am here in the Swiss army. I curse Furthermore, the duty to serve only affects 40 per him, but he does have a point; Why did I sign up for this cent of the country’s 8.5 million people, those with Swiss nightmare? nationality. Today, barely one in four young men are
selected to do service either as conscripts or volunteers. (Women, who represent less than 1,000, or barely 1 per cent, can volunteer.). Military-age citizens can also opt to do civilian service, which is generally longer, and even includes the possibility of overseas development service. Switzerland has a unique tradition of ‘armed neutrality’ that can trace its roots to the decisive defeat of Swiss mercenary forces at the Battle of Marignano in 1515. Officially established in 1815 at the Congress of Vienna, Switzerland harbours the oldest policy of military neutrality in the world. Yet this relies on drafting recruits to make up the brunt of its armed forces, which are commanded by a much smaller professional officer core. Using this hybrid militia-professional system, it is able to, in the event of war, mobilize an impressive proportion of its population. During World War II, it mobilized some 800,000 troops (out of a population of four million) – half the size of today – and threatened to mount a stubborn resistance in the heavily fortified Alps. The Swiss hoped that the cost of a protracted guerrilla war and blownup trade networks would provide enough of a deterrent against a German invasion. Today, the commitment to armed neutrality is still there, though the accompanying heroic narrative lost some credibility amid revelations of extensive financial collaboration with the Nazis.
A TRULY ‘SWISS’ EXPERIENCE Another reason for the continued existence of the Swiss army, and one which encouraged me to serve, is its cultural significance to Switzerland. Until 2018, I had lived in Geneva in an expat bubble, attending an international school and socializing mainly in Anglophone circles. The army, I reasoned, would not only transform me into an invincible terminator, but also break the bubble and show me the real Switzerland. Switzerland is a country divided into four main linguistic groups: German, French, Italian and Romansch, the latter a form of modern-day Latin spoken by a small minority of Swiss as a first or second tongue. In the army, all these young men are finally brought together en masse, and must learn to communicate and cooperate. So there is a strong incentive to help bring the country’s culturally and linguistically-diverse population together. I also learned that any mistake, no matter how trivial, has consequences. In the Swiss army, this applied particularly to things being in order, down to the minutest detail. For instance, one day I left one of my multiple pockets slightly un-zipped. A sergeant, noticing that my uniform was ‘totally inadequate’, decided to teach me a lesson. He handed me an orange-sized stone that I was required to carry at all times in this pocket. From then on, I was to be appropriately called ‘Rekrut Stein’. This burdensome stone lived in my pocket for a full two days until I was told to pass it on to another unfortunate recruit who repeated the same unforgivable offence. Switzerland is also keen on civic responsibility. Not only does the population vote on almost every important decision through direct democracy, including referendums every three months, but every male citizen is still expected
to readily take up arms to defend the homeland. Thus, after finishing military service, soldiers keep their personal military gear at home. My semi-automatic assault-rifle is now proudly exhibited on a shelf in my grandmother’s sitting-room in Geneva. (Editor’s note: Unlike the United States with its lack of effective gun control, there are relatively few ‘incidents’ given Switzerland’s unusual gun culture, both as a hobby and a civic duty, as part of a “well-organized militia”. Switzerland has one of the lowest gun-related homicides in the world, 0.5 out of 100,000. Switzerland also voted in 2019 to respect European Union regulations restricting high capacity magazines). Switzerland is a melting-pot of different languages, ethnicities and cultures. One in five Swiss hold dual citizenship (almost 50 per cent in Geneva). Many more have immigrant backgrounds, particularly from the Balkans. Swiss of Kosovar background, for example, are widely considered as among the best officers in the Swiss army. In a country that has become so globalized, militarization helps to preserve some of its identity and build an overarching feeling of cohesion and patriotism.
NATIONAL SERVICE: IS IT A GOOD IDEA? The idea of some kind of national service, even if not as rigid as Switzerland’s version, is quite appealing to many people, especially to those who are too old to actually have to do it. Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in national service in some European countries (France, Germany, Italy, Nordic countries) with a similar rationale of bringing cohesion to societies with much increased immigration. Some desperation is also detectable – ‘how to induce a sense of civic responsibility in a growingly individualistic bunch of screen-addicted teenagers?’ (as my mother laments). In Switzerland at least, such measures are seen to help, perhaps partly explaining the 2013 referendum vote (over 73 per cent) to keep conscription. While some young men do enjoy aspects of military life, many actively seek to avoid it. I did find benefits from the army; the friends made, languages practised, camaraderie through enforced and senseless hardships and, of course, the money earned (we are, after all, in Switzerland). In hindsight, I may also have learnt some valuable life-skills to drop into my CV, such as discipline, organization, sharpshooting and chemical warfare protection. But I must also admit that much was a complete waste of time. We spent hours and days relentlessly repeating mindless tasks, such as mounting and then dismounting transmission antennas, or waiting around. The brainnumbing military routine of limited, non-sensical tasks coupled with intense fatigue beats you down. You become an unthinking cog in a machine. In the army, I counted every hour, every day, every week and every month until demobilization. Would I go back? No! Am I glad I did it? Yes. Would I recommend it? Depends on the person. But if you are Swiss, you may not feel you have a choice. NIKITA ARTAMONOV is a second-year student at Durham University in the UK, studying history and Russian. He was 18 when he started basic training, comparatively young compared to most other recruits who were in their early 20s.
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Mountain Biking Blasts
in the Lake Geneva & Mont Blanc Region Eddie Andrews
Mountain biking in the Alps. (Photo: Swiss Tourism)
Mountain biking, or VTT (Vélo Tout Térrain) in French, including high altitude descents, is one of the fastest-growing adventure sports in the Alps. And while primarily a spring to autumn pastime, enthusiasts are steadily pushing the pedals – or handle bars - to include downhill winter assaults as well. British mountain biker and former CERN Engineering Fellow Eddie Andrews explains his passion not only for the Swiss and French Alps, but for the forested Jura mountains overlooking Geneva. As he points out, the Lake Geneva region must rank as one of the best mountain-biking starting points in the world.
I BEGAN RIDING AS A KID IN THE SOUTH OF ENGLAND before joining a mountain bike club in my teens. Pretty soon, I was riding and digging local trails in the woods before venturing further afield and into the mountains whenever we went on holiday to Switzerland and the French Alps. This experience was a big motivation for me to look for job in the Lake Geneva region. Obviously, joining CERN for two years was an exceptional privilege, but being able to develop an outdoor mountain lifestyle was just as incredible. The Lake Geneva area is amazing for that; you can get up into the mountains in less than half an hour’s drive. Of course, the Alps are renowned for mountain biking all over Europe. And anyone in the United Kingdom who is serious about leaping onto the saddle will have heard of places like Morzine (France) or Verbier (Switzerland), both prime mountain biking pilgrimage locations. So I already knew where to go before even moving here. And since living in the Pays de Gex, the French Jura side of Geneva, I have discovered a host of new mountain biking trails both in the Jura as well as across the lake in the Alps. You don’t find such variation so close to a city anywhere else. I generally ride the Alps most weekends from spring to the end of summer, maybe as late as October. And I like changing locations, so I am lucky enough to have visited an incredible number of some of the world’s most beautiful and challenging bike areas. I still manage to find new bike paths and trails; there is so much diversity as well as incredible mountain views. From the Jura Mountains, which are north of Lake Geneva facing the Alps and where you get rugged forest descents, you can enjoy what I reckon must be some of the earth’s most spectacular vistas. Whether in the morning or at sunset, you can gaze out to daunting mountains such as the Mont Blanc, Les Dents du Midi and even, to the east, the Eiger and Mönch. For anyone new to the Lake Geneva area, or even just visiting for a weekend, it’s pretty easy to get hooked up. When I arrived I went straight to the nearest bike shop called Bikes and Buddies (https://www.facebook.com/ bikeandbuddies/) – the name was obviously a clue in case I might need some riding friends. The place is run by Stéphane, a Frenchman who lived for a number of years in Oxford and speaks perfect English. He knows all the local trails and the people I could hook up to ride with…I quickly met a lot of riders, both expats and locals. And so
now, two years later, I am good friends with Stéphane and part of a very active and fun mountain biking community. There’s never any problem trying to figure where to go.
FROM “FEEL GOOD RIDING” TO “SUPER TECHNICAL” – SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE Deciding where to go, however, also depends on a lot of things. The weather, for example, or perhaps if you’ve partied too much the night before and wake up with a hangover. So I know places where it’s all “feel-good riding” with nicely groomed bike parks and lots of easy flowing tracks. Then, if you’re feeling fit and raving to go, there are the super technical places with steep, rocky trails with lots
of jumps and obstacles, such as boulders or trees. These are places where you can find real challenge or go really fast. Sometimes, there are tracks which are really hard so you become obsessive. You go back again and again in order to improve. What really helps are the races, particularly the enduro races. These are awesome and consist of a series of time downhill tracks over the period of a day. This is a totally different type of riding. You have to be fit and super-focused and generally be prepared to ride as hard and as fast as possible. Even though the enduros are exhausting, you feel really amazing at the end of the day. It’s also an endurance challenge that you can do with one’s friends. They don’t have to do all the stages, but can pick and choose. Then, at the end of the day, you can eat and
drink, and talk, lie and impress about everything that you did. It’s a great way to bond and meet new people. Mountain biking every weekend can be expensive, but you can do it in a manner that is affordable. You can stay in nice hotels or cheap Alpine hostels. Some people come up with their vans. I’ve slept in cars sometimes. Or you can sleep on someone’s floor or couch. But in the end, I am lucky. I already live very close to the Alps so I can just go out for the day, even if I have to head back by car or train late at night. Before moving to the area, we used to rent a chalet for a few weeks in Morzine. It wasn’t cheap, but compared to the ski season, it’s about half the price.
so is Crans-Montana and La Berra. You can also ride from one country into the other. The Jura Mountains, both French and Swiss sides, are different but still amazing. And they are much closer to Geneva. You can do Crozet and Metabief (a bike park) in France, which is part of the French Jura Regional Park, or go a bit further east, and do St Cergue in Switzerland. In some places, you can also do night riding after work. The telecabines in the Jura are open in the summer on weekends and the trails are awesome. They’re hand-built, fresh and less-groomed, and much more ‘eco’ as they say, than most bike parks in the Alps.
EVEN WINTER BIKING…
THE ALPS: STEEP AND TECHY – THE JURA: MORE NATURAL AND WILDER
Furthermore, most ‘bike parks’ use ski chairlifts to bring people up to the trail heads in the summer, so this is great fun! And allows you to do far more runs. Downhill bikes are created to go down, not to climb. It’s almost impossible to cycle to the top of a mountain on one. So the lifts are a godsend. A lot of people, particularly the fanatics, like to continue with their mountain biking in the winter. This year I
The big difference with the Alps is that the Jura trails are steep, techy and made by people who love riding in the woods and in nature. Alps riding is more for those who want big ‘steeps’ with huge jumps and corners. It’s also where most of the tourists go. The Jura is more natural and wilder, perhaps even old school, notably for those who love nature and the outdoors and wish to be
The Alps stand out as one of the world's best mountain bikings regions (Photo: Swiss Tourism)
cycled the Jura at Crozet – a resort overlooking Geneva – using the telecabine, or lift. There wasn’t much snow, so it was almost as if you were riding in the summer. You just had to be careful about sliding in the snow patches. Mountain e-bikes are becoming increasingly popular and in general are far more ‘doable’ for cycling in the snow. There are also a few big downhill enduro races in the Alps which start in the snow. Megavalanche and Mountain of Hell are popular for this. I have ridden in the snow a handful of times; it’s a lot fun but not really my thing. Generally, when the snow is good, I much prefer skiing. So my bike stays in my room, nice and dry. It’s good to change and you use different muscles – and meet different people. Mountain bikers, too, tend to be skiing or snowboarding passionés. I get a buzz going down a hill on just about anything. Sure, I much prefer cycling, but nothing beats skiing in really good snow. In the end, it’s all about the mountains, particularly the Alps. When you live in this area, you can choose between France and Switzerland, and even Italy (an hour and a half). France has great bike parks, which are open all through the summer. France is also cheaper, particularly for lift passes or lunches. But Switzerland has great riding, too. Verbier, with trails open really late, is amazing. And
at the ‘heart’ of riding. The same goes for the Salève at the foot of the Alps on the southern side of Geneva. Here the terrain is more like the Jura. These are ‘unofficial’ biking areas, so you have to know the trails, which are also more difficult to ride. For those coming to the Lake Geneva and Southern Alps area for the first time, the best thing to do is to join one of the various Facebook biking communities. There are quite a few. But even if you don’t know anyone, you’ll meet people pretty quickly. And everyone has suggestions on where to go and want to do. It’s pretty laidback. My advice to novices who want to try? Just give it a go. But you may have to work up to it. Good bikes are expensive, but quality makes a huge difference. You need to be comfy on two wheels. Go to a bike park such as Les Gets in the summer and simply hire a bike – and protection. The runs are similar to skiing with green, blue, red and black bike pistes. So it makes a nice transition to skiing or snow boarding in the winter. And gets you up in the mountains all year round. EDDIE ANDREWS is a 23-year-old engineer currently travelling but normally living in France’s Pays de Gex near Geneva.
Best mountain biking locations near Geneva Morzine/Les Gets/Pleney/Morgins/Chatel These resorts are all part of the Porte Du Soleil. I buy a season pass and go every weekend in the summer; many different tracks, for complete beginners and advanced riders.
La Berra Only two trails but among my favorites!
Saleve & Croze The most local to Geneva for serious mountain biking!
Known for its Himalaya and Rocheuse black runs.
The most fun I’ve had on a bike. Great holiday destination, full of companies who take you up the mountain and guide you down!
Alpe D’Huez High up and rocky! Known for the Megavalanche
Les Arcs Great enduro event called Enduro 2. Done in pairs, very fun!
Fantastic views, lots of sun. And hard riding.
Malaysia’s top cartoonist – "How can I be neutral?" Edward Girardet
When Zunar, Malaysia’s top satirist, together with Tanzanian cartoonist, Gado, won the 2016 Cartooning for Peace award in Geneva, he was facing 43 years imprisonment. The Kuala Lumpur government had banned all his books and cartoons, and threatened anyone distributing them with jail or loss of license. This was primarily because of Zunar’s supposed subversion of the regime of Prime Minister Najib Razak through critical cartoons highlighting the politician’s abuse of power. But following Razak’s defeat in the 2018 general elections – and his eventual arrest for corruption – the charges were dropped. The country’s censorship laws, however, remain on the books. According to Zunar, nothing has changed; if anything, new issues of concern, notably racism, have emerged. Global Geneva editor Edward Girardet recently interviewed Zunar while reporting in Malaysia.
FOR ZULKIFLEE S.M. ANWAR ULHAQUE, the 57-year-old Malaysian cartoonist better known as Zunar, receiving the 2016 Cartooning for Peace Award helped significantly with his protection. “But that’s a very tough question,” he explained carefully, when asked whether such awards really make a difference. “Certainly, it had an incredible impact, particularly because it was given to me by Kofi Annan. This is something that the (Kuala Lumpur) government could not ignore. Nor the fact that the Malaysian public was also very aware of the award.” In his speech made at the time, Annan, who, as former United Nations Secretary General was also honorary president of the Cartooning for Peace Foundation, noted that through their work both Zunar and his Tanzanian co-winner Gado have reminded us “how fragile liberty remains in Africa and in Asia as well as in other regions of the world.” Through their commitment towards open and transparent societies, he added, they have “received threats in their countries of origin and can no longer practice their profession.” He further pointed out that such artists “confront us with our responsibility to preserve freedom of expression.” Over nearly four decades, Zunar has established himself as Malaysia’s leading satirist by defying its repressive sedition laws and state-controlled media. His starkly frank cartoons have focused on the corruption and financial scandals that have marked Malaysian politics since independence from Britain in 1963. With the country’s leading newspapers remaining largely silent, the regime of Prime Minister Najib Razaki did everything possible to silence Zunar – and the ridicule he dared to highlight in the name of freedom of expression. From 2010 onwards, the Najib government repeatedly arrested Zunar, or raided his office and home. It banned nine of his books as well as his online activities, plus confiscated thousands of copies of his publications. They also intimidated his three main distributors with removal of their licenses if they continued to sell his works. Charging Zunar under six different laws, plus nine charges of sedition, the authorities threatened him with 43 years imprisonment, primarily for lambasting both Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, for their illicit activities or public absurdities. This included a series of tweets made in 2015 criticizing the regime. They also banned him from overseas travel.
PUTTING REPRESSIVE REGIMES UNDER PRESSURE Given the enormous prestige of the Cartooning for Peace award, however, and the embarrassment that it might cause, Najib was forced to allow Zunar to fly to Geneva to receive the prize and to open a lake-side exhibition of satirical cartoons. “Such top events can really bring such regimes under a lot of pressure,” Zunar added with a smile. Both Najib and his wife Rosnah are themselves now facing major corruption and theft charges and are prevented from travelling. Zunar, who was only 18 when his first cartoon was banned (he had criticized a teacher in his school
magazine), had a particular passion for focusing his satire on Rosmah, whom he regarded as a ‘gift’ to any imaginative cartoonist with her massive hair-do’s, obsession for luxury goods and expensive lifestyle. His drawings made her a source of national ridicule. Since the defeat of Najib and his Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which ruled the country for over 60 years, freedom of expression has become easier. “The charges against me have been dropped and I am now able to draw
whatever I like. You can also find my publications in the shops or at news stands, which makes a big difference because this is the way I make my living,” Zunar explains.
MALAYSIA’S REPRESSION LAWS: THE KNIFE IS STILL THERE At the same time, he maintains, the statutes haven’t changed. While the Alliance for Hope (PH, or Pakatan Harapan) government of Maharhir Mohamad has pledged a new era of freedom of expression, Zunar is not so sure. “How can we say the situation has improved if the laws remain? The knife is still there. They are still on the books, so (technically) the whole thing could start again.” According to the cartoonist, a new danger is emerging, notably a brutish form of nationalistic racism and extremist Islamic-inspired discrimination that is increasingly marking BN opposition ranks. This is now specifically targeting the more ethnically and religiously mixed Alliance of Hope government, which includes Malay, Chinese, Indian, Hindu and other political or religious groups. “This is what I am now drawing against. People are being attacked for not being Malay enough. The former government is encouraging a new form of intolerance,” Zunar maintains. “We have to speak out.” Once when the police arrested him, he told them that they could “ban his cartoons but not his mind.”
IT IS IMPORTANT FOR PEOPLE TO LAUGH – AND LAUGH AT POLITICIANS For Zunar, cartooning is an important way to ring the ‘alarum bells’ as it can communicate with everyone,
regardless of language and including those who can’t read. “This is why politicians hate cartoonists. They dislike being cancelled out. They also know that we can make people laugh and across all lines,” he adds. Humour is a highly critical form of expression for cartooning, he explains. “It is important for everyone to laugh at governments, preventing politicians from taking themselves too seriously. My way of protesting is by laughing and making people laugh.” At the same time, he notes, it is vital for people to understand the dangers. The politicians can use any form of manipulation or lies to inspire hate – and intolerance. “When governments ban books, they can use any definition they want to say that you are being a threat. If they don’t like you, they can get you,” Zunar argues. “So, in the end, I don’t see any real change.” Zunar, who has always refused to back down or to remain silent, sees a particularly heinous threat with the rise of the supposedly “new Malay” identity. As he explains, 60 per cent of his country’s citizens are ethnic Malay with 30 per cent Chinese and 10 per cent all the rest, including people of Indian, Pakistani, Indonesian, Tamil, Thai and European origin. So one is beginning to witness a form of ‘us’ (ie. Malay) against ‘them’, all the rest, he says. In addition, there is the emergence of a Muslim against non-Muslim approach. Most of the new political opposition is both nationalist Malay and hardline Islam. “This is terrible for Malaysia and terrible for everyone,” says Zunar, who is himself both Malay and Muslim. “So I consider it my role to speak out. It is also our responsibility as a people.”
Global Geneva Editor EDWARD GIRARDET is both a foreign correspondent and an author. He is based in Geneva and Bangkok.
THE SMARTEST EBIKES EVER!
Made in U.S.A
Godard spills the beans on politics and atrocity Peter Hulm
Anna Karina, who died in December 2019, was more than Jean-Luc Godard's muse. In one film of his, Made in U.S.A, she was allowed an independent existence. Sixty years since Godardâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 'Breathless' burst onto our screens in 1959, it is still only 10 years since the United States premiered this 1966 film by the French-Swiss filmmaker. A meditation about atrocity in politics. it was disguised as a nonsensical private-eye thriller. Today this nightmare version of Alice in Wonderland or Tintin today looks more and more realistic. Peter Hulm pays tribute to an artist who once lived down the hill from him in Vaud and could often be seen on the streets of Rolle as well as filming on location nearby.
JEAN-LUC GODARD – 89 ON 3 DECEMBER 2019 – makes probably the most charmless films in the history of cinema. But this statement should be read as a description not a judgment. His films highlight the extent to which other directors rely on charm to make their movies acceptable: the charms of narrative, character, theme, story, spectacle, display, ‘content’, personality, photography, fluidity of editing, voyeurism, spectator distance, personal involvement, ‘realism’ or wilful fantasy. Godard’s stylistic originality – his strategy of disenchantment, demystification, and deconstruction of efforts to disguise the coercive messages of conventional films – frequently hides from critics the extent to which his films are political, not just in their theoretical monologues, but also in their concern with the practical realities and violence of modern politics, particularly torture and assassination (Le Petit Soldat, Les Caribiniers, and Made in U.S.A., i.e., particularly in his least discussed works).
THE REASON FOR CONFUSION: GODARD’S DESIRE FOR REALISM In Made in U.S.A. (1966), what is striking in retrospect is his fidelity to our knowledge of politics which modern society provides. As a result, in explicating the film, the normally careful critic Richard Roud confesses: “The plot is extremely confusing. […] The reason for this confusion is quite simple: Godard’s desire for realism. Nobody knows to this day who killed Ben Barka and how it was done […] And, Warren Report or not, no one yet knows the full story of the Kennedy assassination [both referred to in the film]. Any film about these events would, according to Godard, be false and dishonest. Just as Les Caribiniers seemed to many stupid and nonsensical, so Made in U.S.A. seems to many confused and absurd. The reasons are similar in both cases. But at least anyone could follow Les Caribiniers, whereas the same is not true of Made in U.S.A.” Roud’s fellow critic and scholar Ian Cameron points out that Godard says he was inspired by Howard Hawks’s The Big Sleep, but with a woman wearing the detective’s trenchcoat. No-one, not even its author Raymond Chandler or Hawks himself, has been able to make sense of that plot. At least Godard was trying to reflect political realities. Finally, with much hesitation, Roud thought Made in U.S.A. a failure. Godard himself told the critic Colin MacCabe: “Things were too mixed up. I wanted to say too many things.” It was filmed to help out producer Georges Beauregard when Godard had already been commissioned to make One or Two Things that I know about Her.
The most common response seems to have been: “It is his slightest film since Alphaville, perhaps even since Bande à Part. Conversely [a word that seems to turn up very often in articles on Godard], it is also one of the most difficult” (Cameron). “It’s no surprise that the film’s Swedish distributors caught a terrible cold with it, for Made in U.S.A. is the least exportable of Godard’s films”.
‘MEANINGLESS’ REMARKS WITH SIGNIFICANCE Its difficulties have been ascribed to his efforts to use anti-narrative techniques and fragmentation of plot at the same time as setting out an exposition of the absurdity of the contemporary world: “In fact, according to traditional views of aesthetics, it is wholly proper to have the form express the content. But this has not been Godard’s way before, and it doesn’t work too well here” (Roud). Cameron, too, recognizes Made in U.S.A. as having a “centre-less structure”. But many of the “meaningless” remarks, Cameron notes, prove to have significance. For example, in a bar Anna Karina notes that “during a war 70+14 make 40” (a reference to three French disasters – the 1870 Franco-Prussian war, the outbreak of the First World War and assassination of the Socialist leader JeanJaurès, and the collapse of French defenses at Sedan in 1940).
Anna Karina and László Szabó in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Made in U.S.A.” (Photo: Rialto Pictures)
For a “slight” film, Made in U.S.A. carries some heavy political baggage: “References to Kennedy, to Ben Barka, to the murder of the mayor of Evian and to the fates of the 17 witnesses to the Kennedy assassination as well as to the fact that Paula [Anna Karina] wanted to write a book on Lee Harvey Oswald, underline the impression that assassination is the international reserve currency of politics. Richard [Paula’s murdered boyfriend] wrote that ‘le fascisme était le dollar de la morale’ [Fascism was the
POLITICS AS WAR... THE ILLUSION OF WAR AS A GAME currency of morality]” (Cameron). Similarly, “torture is a normal part of the political underworld’s activities. Marie Dufour [one of the briefly seen characters] was tortured with a razor blade. Mme Celine, the charwoman from Une Femme Mariée, turns up walking with a limp. We learn that she has been tortured. (She says: ‘Toujours le sang, la peur, la politique, l’argent. [Forever blood, fear, politics, money]”.) Twice the film insists, via the cover of a paperback book, that the revolutionary left is back to its starting point: “gauche année zéro”, as Cameron also notes. The film ends with an observation that Left and Right are outdated notions. Questions have to be posed in other terms. Cameron also picks up on Godard’s concern with politics as war (“since Le Petit Soldat”), the illusion of war as a game (in Les Caribiniers), war as entertainment (in Pierrot le Fou), and politics as a bad movie. Towards the end of the film, Godard’s commentary asserts: “We were certainly in a film about politics: Walt Disney plus blood”. Writing at the turn of the millennium, Colin MacCabe draws a conclusion that differs from earlier critics: “What the film actually demonstrates is the complete inability of the form to deal with the reality of a politics which eludes the easy solutions of the thriller genre. In some ways, the simple and sombre message of the film is the inability of the left to cope with the development of consumer
capitalism”. Godard described his aim around that time as “to show and to show myself showing” (MacCabe). Made in U.S.A. represents the last of his films working within the old narrative structure (many of the characters are named after Godard’s favourite American directors and thriller writers), demonstrating through its manipulation of the plot elements and scenario the disintegration of such strategies in the face of modern politics. In the later 266-min. Histoire(s) du cinéma (198898), Godard’s technical expertise, an attempt to tell the history of cinema visually, was not just a demonstration of formal mastery: “The failure to prevent or record the [Nazi concentration and extermination] camps is one of the major, if not the major, theme of the Histoire(s)” (MacCabe). The juxtaposition of Elizabeth Taylor’s (supposedly) smiling face with footage of the concentration camps became “the most discussed sequence” from the first part. In fact, she was not smiling and Godard’s commentary points out that George Stevens, director of the film A Place in the Sun from which the Taylor still is taken, made his first film in colour at Auschwitz and Ravensbrück. Godard’s commentary also brings to the forefront the double reality hidden behind these stills: “He analyses the force of Taylor’s smile in terms of Stevens’s desire to celebrate life after this experience of death. On the other hand, this scene fits into the major theme of the histories – that the cinema is guilty for allowing the camps to happen, for not recording history accurately enough either to stop the killing from happening or to understand what happened” (MacCabe). Accepting that Godard considers Made in U.S.A. less than satisfactory (“It is not very good because there are a lot of extremely confused things in it” – 1980), the explanation for its confusions is instructive. Whereas the film he was making in parallel introduces us to Godard’s favorite device of the unreliable commentator (a voice-over whose statements are not to be taken on trust), Made in U.S.A. represented a fiction he had constructed “purely commercially. What was most interesting was above all the colours: there was a certain
amount of research into colours; but that does not make a film” (156). Godard, however, is not the most reliable judge of his films (he later condemned Breathless/A bout du souffle! at a time when he wanted all films to be political). In reality, he had adapted (extremely loosely) a book by Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake), The Jugger. But the producer had not completely paid for the rights, and never did, since only about a minute of the original was used and the tough hero became Anna Karina. But Godard told the magazine Sight & Sound he was making a film from a Stark thriller, and Westlake sued for copyright infringement. The case took years but the author eventually won. Westlake Jean-Luc Godard interview in a 2019 television interview. received U.S. distribution rights (Europe was less protective). “In one of the most shocking moments of the film, No-one in America was interested in showing the film Karina asks the character Donald [Siegal] (played by and Westlake thought it was his worst book (though later Jean-Pierre Léaud), ‘If you had to die, would you prefer to critics disagreed). know beforehand or would you rather it was sudden?’ ‘I’d The film finally had its U.S. premiere on 1 April 2009, rather it was sudden,’ he replies. She shoots him, and all some months after Westlake’s death. See The Westlake we hear from him as he dies are his cries for his mother” Review, which sums it up: “A crazed auteur turned (MacCabe). [Westlake’s] story into a weird abstract political diatribe She also murders the investigator David Goodis (!) to dressed up in noir clothing, that seems to have something keep him from revealing the truth about an atrocity. to do with the Vietnam War […], and features a drop-dead In a Montreal seminar on Made in U.S.A., Godard Danish dame playing the roughest of all rough-hewn suggests that detective thrillers are so popular because American tough guys. Westlake not only didn’t get paid the investigator “corresponds to the notion of liberty for this, but he had to drag the producers into court, and which people have (which is not necessarily freedom) – then settle for the U.S. rights to a movie he hated, that only someone who walks around hands in pockets [as Karina diehard Godard buffs would ever pay money to see, and does in the film], who does nothing, who is not forced he didn’t see a franc until just before he kicked (if then).” to work at a machine like a factory worker, who does not have any heavy governmental responsibilities or No wonder Godard didn’t want to speak much about it. anything like that, who smokes a cigarette, who can go into a pub, who can grab someone by the collar and ask The 1990s onwards, with the films of Quentin them questions…It must represent the ideal of freedom Tarantino, David Lynch, Spike Jonze and Paul Thomas for the West. Those are the real heroes, the police officers, Anderson, as well as David Cronenberg’s more even if people do not like them” (1980). adventurous experiments, have put Made in U.S.A. in a less absurd light. Made in U.S.A. is full of such characters. The same kind of confusion (of the spectator) in Made in U.S.A. can be found in David Lynch’s Eraserhead, Lost Some authors’ failures are more instructive than Highway and Mulholland Drive. others’ successes. Made in U.S.A. bristles with ideas – Given Godard’s experience with the inadequacies of about the ubiquity of disruptive sounds in everyday narrative to deal with political horror, one can understand life, about the use of colour (and this is an exceptionally his complaint to New York’s film critics (refusing their beautiful film), the refusal to pretend that the actors are award in 1995) that they had failed “to prevent Mr characters from the script, and the frustration of audience Spielberg from reconstructing Auschwitz” in Schindler’s expectations of narrative, film scripts or standard realism. List (MacCabe). The absurd math of politics is laid bare in a bar where “From very early on,” writes Colin MacCabe, “Godard a zombielike Marianne Faithful sings her most famous held that the only way to film the camps would be from song with no-one taking any notice (‘Tears go by’), and the perspective of the home life of one of the guards” a workman spouts nonsense sentences over his glass of (ibid). Through the fractured elliptical style, its black jokes, wine. and acceptance of the social framework in which torture routinely takes place, Made in U.S.A. gives us Godard’s PETER HULM is our deputy editor based in Erschmatt,Switzerland. picture of society as viewed by society’s guards.
Village of the Forgetful A film-maker’s journey Madeleine Dallmeyer
Several years ago, Berlin-based film-maker Madeleine Dallmeyer came across a magazine with an unusual story. It was about a Swiss initiative – the Martin Woodtlis Project – which seeks to help foreign patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia by providing them with comparatively inexpensive, one-on-one care in a ‘village’ setting in northern Thailand. The article intrigued her. Taking advantage of Thailand’s growing medical tourism industry, basically quality care at affordable prices, the project emerged as one way of dealing with a problem increasingly affecting aging populations back in Europe. Initially skeptical, Dallmeyer looked more closely at the photographs. The patients appeared to look relatively happy. She decided to investigate, ultimately producing a two-hour documentary. With COVID-19 threatening to undermine Thailand's traditional mass tourism, selective quality "medical tourism" is expected to increase with more expatriates to take advantage of less costly and longer-term living possibilities. THE SUBJECT FASCINATED ME AND I FOUND MYSELF thinking about it for days after. One of the reasons is that my own grandmother had suffered from dementia in her old age. This presented enormous difficulties not just for friends and family, but for her. She was an exceptionally proud woman with an acute sense of culture, intellect and independence. And she treasured this. So it was hard to witness how she slowly began to lose her faculties and particularly her sensibilities, all characteristics which she had found so important in life.
Nevertheless, we considered it important for her to remain at home in surroundings. This was something which she knew and which might help ensure that at least a certain familiarity remained. And then I read this article, which seemed to claim that certain people are simply ‘dumping’ their relatives in Thailand because it is cheaper. But as I read further, the photographs drew me in. I felt less infuriated. Somehow, the people radiated happiness. I decided to contact Martin Woodtli and asked him if we could chat. One thing lead to another. I felt that there was a film.
The Baan Kamlangchay Centre, located in Faham village a few kilometres outside of Chiang Mai, was set up by Swiss citizen Martin Woodtli in order to help care for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia. He started the project in 2004 when his own father commited suicide, considering himself unable to look after his wife, an Alzheimer’s patient. Woodtli then assumed responsibility for her. Maintaining that no proper institutions existed in Switzerland capable of providing proper care, both medically and financially, he took her to Thailand, a country he knew well having volunteered there for Médecins sans Frontières. He slowly created a structure which is now shared with a dozen Swiss, German and Austrian patients living in several houses in the village itself. I first make a short ‘reccy’, an exploratory trip to Thailand. I wanted to see whether the project was worthwhile doing. During this initial trip, I made friends with some of the centre’s inhabitants and carers. From their reflections and experiences, I started shaping a first draft of a potential script. Curiously, my final film was not far off this original draft. The film itself was my first since completing my studies, so I had a very small budget. Right from the beginning it was clear that this could not be a pure factually-based, journalistic report. It had to be a proper documentary based on real encounters. It needed to offer a sense of atmosphere as to what is really happening. For this, however, one need a lot of time and, of course, funding. But I was lucky to have a team who were equally smitten by the subject. When I first told Anne (the camerawoman) and Aljoscha (the sound technician) about the project they became so enthused that they immediately committed, even though our production fees were paltry. Then there was Nam, our Thai production assistant and interpreter. She joined us because she was also interested in the subject matter. She wanted to be part of it, so she fell in perfectly with our team. Our budget did not even cover the return flights from Berlin to Chiangmai. We therefore decided to remain for a longer period by integrating our ‘vacation’ time into the trip. We did this by taking a break on one of Thailand’s beautiful, tropical islands, so it was an incredible opportunity for all of us. So we made the film as part of a group of friends. Overall, we spent nearly two months on the ground. We began shooting almost immediately on arrival. Normally, I would wait before going into production but we wanted to use all the time available, such as getting to know better both the camera and various filming angles. Furthermore, our protagonists, the patients, often forgot who we were, and what we were doing, sometimes right in the middle of a conversation. We had to reintroduce ourselves everyday and to re-explain what we were doing. Of course this is very tragic, but we took these ‘Groundhog Day’ situations with a lot of humour as well. Under normal circumstance, I consider it important to lend them a ‘feel’ for the film and how they would appear. Given their medical condition, this was obviously impossible. Even getting to know them was a laborious process. At the same time, one cannot simply dismiss or underestimate such individuals. We got to know them
better day by day. This helped better understand and tolerate the usual irritations of filming under difficult circumstances. In fact, this proved to be our biggest surprise. Even when dealing with their dementia, it was possible to develop friendships. Take Kurt, for example, with his mischievous sense of humour. I got to know him well enough that I could always make him laugh. Even if I had to renew our relationship almost every day, I believe that he saw in me an unknown woman whom he could in fact trust. We always managed to converse on normal terms. It was the same with others. Even Geri, who lived in a different world, sort of became my friend. In fact, they all became our friends. For me that was the best present to emerge from the entire production. Of course, outsiders then asked: what’s the point in becoming friends if they don’t even remember who you are? My response is that it’s not a matter of remembering. Experiences should not be based solely on memories. What remains is the feeling of happiness that would often
"WE TOOK THESE ‘GROUNDHOG DAY’ SITUATIONS WITH A LOT OF HUMOUR AS WELL." emerge, if only for a short period. For the carers, most of them Thai nurses or helpers, this is also important. Even if everything is based on the ‘here and now’, the carers provided an unbelievable sense of warmth. Then there were the amusing misunderstandings. One of them is incorporated in the film. Martin, one of the main figures, completely forgot within a span of 10 minutes the purpose of the microphone, which I had attached. Again and again, he would take the box out of his pocket and give it back to me with wonder. The only thing he really understood is when I explained that I wanted him to take care of it for me. The same goes for the large microphone. Anyone who knows what a film microphone looks like will understand why such confusion can arise. If you look at the film, you can see the protagonist looking up with no uncertain dismay at the microphone above him.
MEDICAL TOURISM: IS IT REALLY APPROPRIATE? One issue that immediately arises with such a film is how does this all fit in with the concept of medical tourism? Perceived as a form of cheap health care when compared to most western countries, the industry is steadily expanding in countries such as Thailand, India or Sri Lanka. People fly in for Los Angeles, Paris, London or Sydney in order to benefit from relatively inexpensive but usually high-quality medical care or dentistry. Such medical trips are often combined with holidays. The cost is often one quarter of what is offered in Europe or North America. International hospitals and health centres specifically designed for expatriates are now a standard feature in Bangkok and other main centres in Thailand and providing significant employment for many of its well-trained medical personnel. Martin Woodtli is very aware of this. A material imbalance clearly exists in today’s world, notably that
health care is far cheaper in such former developing world countries. I also fully understand anyone who questions this with skepticism. Should one build a business model on this reality? Should one even cultivate a for-profit health business? To my mind, we should not only crtically explore the system, but also take into consideration how individual patients themselves feel, particularly given the fate that they are now forced to endure. Martin’s project is small and – as he himself admits – it responds to a niche need. Both he and his Thai wife Nid pay attention to the fact that their project should not become too big – and possibly impersonal. For the carers and other employees, he is a reliable employer. The village also sometimes contributes to the way the Dementia Project is presented. At the same time integrating with the local community is an exciting challenge. It is a different situation with other medical or health care options. The moment major, impersonal investors with purely commercial interests get involved, such concepts become problematic. The important thing is that local populations are not overwhelmed. They need to be involved, at least partially. One also needs to be able to weigh – again and again – the interests that emerge. As far as the relatives are concerned, they have my complete compassion and understanding. No one finds it easy to send a parent or partner so far away. The reality, however, is that the care is incredibly good. The decisive element is the 24-hour, one-on-one care that is provided. For this reason, patients do not have to take calming medication. From I have witnessed, it is not a matter of ‘dumping’ but rather a matter of often painfully weighed decisions to send one’s loved ones away. For the patients, most of them probably have little or no idea where they are. Without doubt, this is ethically difficult. Even the exotic surroundings of being located in this distant part of the world is often disconcerting. At the same time, no ideal solution exists. What is important is what’s best for the patient. My feeling is that this is precisely what is happening. According to Wootli, he has far more enquiries than places available. So people are actually trying to decide what decision is best. No one wishes to keep someone there if they are not happy. This is not a matter of idealizing the situation. There are clearly many problems for the patients, such as grasping what is really happening or dealing with language, a new environment or the lack of familiar faces. During stay, however, Kurt completely opened up. Given that most of the caregivers only spoke a smattering of German, this was a point of frustration for him. He appeared delighted to be able to speak German with us. This was great for him – and actually helped him remember more. Language is obviously one of the downsides of living so far away from home. Yet while the carers can’t speak German, some of them were making the effort to learn it in their spare time, something that is very evident in the film itself. The key issue, however, is their state of dementia, the real culprit in this tragedy. One needs to constantly weigh what is best and to ensure that one is responding to the real needs of the patient.
PRODUCING DOCUMENTARIES: NEVER AN EASY PROCESS As with most independent producers, it is not always easy to operate. In fact, it’s very difficult. Anyone obsessed by the dream of making films needs to be aware of this. It always takes an incredibly long time to put the funding and other elements into place. One is constantly forced to compromise, or at least be ready. When people provide funding, they always want something in return, such as demands on content, length and format. So these things need to be worked out. The German public, for example, is often completely different from other countries. But so are international cinema audiences. The same goes when dealing with streaming platforms, such as YouTube or Netflix. One is constantly dealing with even more different target groups, so everything needs to be tailored. Similarly, one needs to be conscious of one’s own life challenges. This means being flexible, constantly prepared to improvise, particularly projects based on personal passion and love. It’s very hard to make a decent living from such initiatives. Or even remain in the profession. You cannot imagine how many kitchens, restaurants and bars I have worked in. At the same time, it is the best profession that I can imagine. I have no intention of stopping. Plus there are opportunities linked to the job which offer possibilities to at least continue with filmmaking, such as making commercial productions. It’s all a matter of survival. Recently, for example, I worked on a journalistic format that was more appropriately aimed at the 18-28 year-old age group. Initially, it was not clear what this entailed. I wanted to produce a series of one-minute story segments that had be disseminated more effectively. It was hard at first, but then you learn to work more with graphics, plus interact more directly with audiences. I started to enjoy it. For me, the ideal place to watch a film remains the cinema. This is where you can allow yourself to be absorbed by the story or unusual film experiences, letting one’s inhibitions to leave the room. Watching films on TV or streaming is totally different. You can zap when and where you like. Nevertheless, I think the long, artistic films will continue to exist. There are many festivals and other occasions that celebrate this. At the moment, I am working on a project about technology, science and pets. Once again, it is an intercultural topic. Most of my films are about bringing the viewer closer to other worlds enabling one to embrace different perspectives. It’s very similar to dreaming – only perhaps even more surprising. Being based in Berlin is great for film-makers; it’s still very affordable and packed with highly creative people. But it never stops moving, so sometimes one just has to just to leave in order to shut oneself off and not be overwhelmed. MADELEINE DALLMEYER is a Berlin-based film-maker. You can view a preview of her documentary ‘The Village of the Forgetful' on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PH9kD2c0HzI For more information, contact: email@example.com
The Continuing Battle for Okinawa
The Battle of Okinawa – nicknamed “the typhoon of steel” – is widely judged the bloodiest battle in the Pacific during World War II (running from 1 April to 22 June, 1945). According to the Okinawa Peace Memorial Museum, some 240,000 soldiers and civilians died. Almost 150,000 were Okinawans (an East Asian ethnic group) representing a quarter to one third of the local population. Many were killed, committed suicide or went missing. In contrast, 77,000 Japanese and 14,000 American soldiers also perished as did over 400 Korean forced labourers and sex slaves, 82 British and 34 Taiwanese. Investigative reporter Pat Elder from Civilian Exposure, a non-profit news organization, chronicles the continuing indifference to the health of Okinawans and their environment caused by lethal military substances from U.S. bases in Japan’s southernmost prefecture. ONCE RESISTANCE TO THE INVADING U.S. FORCES HAD completely collapsed by the end of June, 1945, Okinawa became America’s most important troop staging area with air bases and naval anchorage for the planned final onslaught against Japan. As American scholar and activist Joseph Essertier reminds us, Okinawa then served as a launching pad for US military operations, but this time during the Korean and Vietnam wars. And today it continues to act as a principal base for American security in the Pacific region, primarily against North Korea and China. But the islands’ environment (Okinawa Prefecture consists of a single large island with three smaller island groups) faces more than theoretical destruction. U.S. license plates in Okinawa once labeled Okinawa the “keystone of the Pacific.” The Okinawan people’s land has been occupied by U.S. forces for decades, and during that time their land and water has been poisoned by various substances, even some designed to kill people. Roughly half of the 50,000 US troops based in Japan are stationed in Okinawa. Planned protests to mark this year’s 48th anniversary of the island’s reversion (apart from huge chunks which remain part of American base facilities) to Japan from U.S. control on 15 May 1972, were cancelled this Spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Essertier has pointed out that Okinawa’s natural environment is so rich in biodiversity that scientists have recently given recognition to coastal waters of HenokoŌura on the main island’s eastern side as Japan’s first Hope Spot, i.e., a place that should be designated a nature preserve. American oceanographer Sylvia Earle, founder of the Mission Blue Alliance which is a member of the Swissbased RAMSAR Network, has stressed: “This unique coral hot-spot powers a little-known but richly diverse marine ecosystem which holds more than 5,000 species in its waters including 262 known to be endangered.”
A HAZARDOUS POLLUTION THAT THREATENS THE ISLAND: TOXIC FIREFIGHTING FOAM In mid-April 2020, however, an incident involving the massive discharge of toxic firefighting foam highlighted the dangers still present, not just from chemicals but from official procrastination.
The accident was caused when mountains of suds from a fire suppression system in an aircraft hangar of the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma flowed into a local river on 10 April. The foam contains perfluoro octane sulfonic acid, or PFOS, and perfluoro octanoic acid, or PFOA. Huge clumps of foam reaching more than 30 metres high were seen floating on the river and settling into surrounding residential neighbourhoods. This was not the first PFOS/PFOA toxic release in Okinawa. The incident has also greatly inflamed local frustrations with the Japanese central government and the U.S. military. The chemicals are known to contribute to testicular, liver, breast, and kidney cancers, as well as a host of childhood diseases and abnormalities in a developing fetus. Their manufacture and importation have been prohibited in Japan since 2010, yet Okinawa’s drinking water continues to contain high levels of these substances. Both the Okinawa Times and the Military Times reported that 143,830 litres of the foam spilled outside the base precincts from a total estimated 227,100 litres released from a hangar. The Japanese mainland Asahi Shimbun newspaper, however, maintained that only 14.4 litres had escaped, completely contradicting the locally observed scale of the release.
A FIRST STEP TOWARD MORE TRANSPARENCY IS AN ABSOLUTE More than a week (18 April) after the spillage, the U.S. military command allowed Japanese officials onto the base to investigate. This was the first access granted since a 2015 environmental supplementary agreement to the JapanU.S. Status of Forces Agreement. The 2015 agreement says the Japanese government or local municipalities “may request” permission from the U.S. side to conduct surveys.
READ MORE ONLINE @ GLOBAL-GENEVA.COM PAT ELDER is an investigative reporter with Civilian Exposure, a
U.S. organization from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, that tracks military contamination at www.civilianexposure.org. Thanks to Joseph Essertier for his edits and commentary.
Dinners with Graham Greene
"I wasn't a commercially succesful writer until after the war," he said.
Veteran foreign correspondent Paul Ress had the enviable knack of instantly making friends for life with many of the famous people he met, from Mikhael Gorbachev to painter Joan Miró as well as colleagues. One of his longest relationships was with Graham Greene, despite the author’s suspicion of Americans and their press, when Paul was reporting for Time magazine from the French Riviera. Here’s what Paul, who sadly died on 31 May 2020 at the age of 98, wrote in his memoir Shaggy Dog
Tales a few years ago.
A DINNER WITH GRAHAM GREENE IN ANTIBES could start, so to speak, at lunch. As neither of us ever cooked, and there was only a small number of restaurants to be frequented in the Riviera resort, I often found myself lunching at the same restaurant as the writer. Almost invariably he would be reading a fat biography. “May I sit down or would you prefer to go on reading?” I would ask respectfully. “I should like to continue reading,” he usually said, “but we could have dinner this evening.” Years earlier we had reached a modus vivaldi, whoops, vivendi, about our relationship. “We can be friends if you promise me not to take notes on what I say during a meal or afterwards. Then I shall be at ease with you. And no articles about me unless I agree to them.” I willingly accepted these ground rules, and as neither of us had many friends in Antibes, we saw a lot of each other. The dinner scenario hardly varied. It was always whisky, to start with. Only the brand changed. I’d drive to his city apartment overlooking the Antibes sea front. The streets were full of uncollected trash. “It’s not the Côte d’Azur,” he remarked once, “it’s the côte d’ordure.” It was the only pun I ever heard him make. He disliked puns, especially mine. “Would you like a whisky?” he always began. “Will Grouse do?” Once he pointed to a bottle of whisky with a Japanese name, Suntory, on it. It came with a letter, he explained. “They’re offering me a free life-time supply of their whisky if I will have a character in one of my novels ask for that Japanese brand of scotch. What do you think I should do?”
I suggested mildly that he knew very well what to do. Anyway, I added, you’ve not tasted it yet. It was only several pre-dinner drinks later that the bottle was opened. It tasted pretty authentic to my uneducated palate. I didn’t have the impression that he was overwhelmed. In any case, I was never offered a Japanese whisky again. It was impossible to go out for dinner without two whiskies neat. Normally we debated where to go for dinner. But one night he said we’d go to a new place. “There’s one problem with it, though,” he admitted. “The chairs are dreadfully uncomfortable. Seventeenth century chairs, I suspect. They were given to the owner by his father-in-law and mother-in-law, so he can’t get rid of them. We shall have to go there with pillows.” We always walked from Greene’s centrally located flat to any of our half dozen restaurants. I felt a bit silly walking through the city carrying a largish pillow. He didn’t. When we got to his new restaurant, horribile dictu, we found it closed. What to do with the pillows? “Shouldn’t we take them back to your apartment?” I suggested timidly. “No,” he said, “we’ll just go across the street to the Venise” (one of his favorite restaurants). It was summertime and of course there was no cloakroom attendant. “Bonsoir, Monsieur Greene,” said the owner, pleased to see his most famous customer. Greene handed him his pillow and I did likewise. The restaurateur looked puzzled but said nothing. “One of the reasons I like this place,” Greene explained, “is that they don’t object if I choose a pasta as the main
course.” He did just that, but compensated with a bottle of wine, which we shared. We also shared the bill. Early on in the relationship, we took turns paying. But he didn’t like this arrangement because he felt we never remembered whose turn it was. So, it was a Dutch treat. As we were leaving, the restaurateur handed us the pillows, but could not resist inquiring, “Do you mind if I ask you why you came to my restaurant with pillows?” Ha ha, I thought, now Graham will have to come up with an innovative explanation. “We intended to eat in the restaurant across the street,” said Greene bluntly, “but it was closed.” When we arrived in front of his apartment, Graham always proposed “a drink for the road.” I never declined his invitation. I drove home extremely carefully. Even if I had wanted to make notes about our conversation, even if I had promised never to write about our encounters, I couldn’t have recalled a tenth of what was said and what happened during the long alcoholic evenings. Greene hated being recognized in a public setting. Every so often as he walked briskly through the streets of Antibes, a stranger would accost him and say, “Aren’t you Graham Greene?” “I glaze,” he said, “or I reply, ‘you must be thinking of my brother.’ I stay away from television so that people won’t recognize me. I agreed to appear on Budapest TV because I thought that was pretty safe. “Actually there is another Graham Greene. I mean that’s his name. We’ve never met but some day I’d like to do a story about us. Our paths keep crossing. The other Graham Greene was thrown into jail in Assam and wired the Picture Post to send him a hundred pounds. The magazine contacted me and I offered to go to India and to write about our confrontation, but the plan didn’t work out.” The writer visibly enjoyed chatting about his namesake. “One day I was in a hotel in Rome and a woman named Veronica called up. ‘We met in Arabia,’ she reminded me. Obviously she knew the other Greene because I had never been in Arabia. I suggested a drink in the bar. I didn’t turn up, though, after a friend I sent ahead to the bar phoned me to say she was awful. “On another occasion in London I bought a plane ticket to New York. The airline employee said, ‘You’re not staying very long in the States, are you? You’re flying over on September 2 and returning the next day.’ I told her I hadn’t even thought of booking my return flight. Of course, the other G.G. was returning to London on September 3.” Contrary to what one might expect of an Englishman who had chosen to live in France, Greene much preferred English cooking to French cuisine. “Yes, French gigot [leg of lamb] is good,” he conceded, “but British roast saddle of mutton is better. Our lamb cutlets are superior to the French. English sausages and beer are also much
better. I’d choose English apple pie over French tarte aux pommes. And then I am very proud of Welsh rarebit, herring roes on toast and treacle tart.” Greene also had a weakness for Irish coffee. “I sleep comfortably after drinking one, but one night in a Paris restaurant the proprietor poured out Scotch whisky for want of Irish and the result was deplorable.” Advancing years didn’t much alter Greene’s fairly rigid work routine. Between breakfast (tea, dry biscuits and marmalade) at 8:30 and lunch at 12:15 he wrote “a minimum of 300 words a morning, if possible 400, six days a week. That’s my quota. I can really write for an hour or an hour and a half at most. I like to stop in the middle of a scene because that makes it easier to start the next day. Writing a novel does not become easier with age and experience. Ever since I wrote A Burnt-Out Case in 1959, I’ve thought that each novel was the last I’d be capable of writing.” One day he complained that he was “down to only 250 words a morning. Deplorable.” When he wasn’t writing—and he never did afternoons or evenings in Antibes—he was generally reading. Although he claimed to be a slow reader, he said he averaged 13 books a month. He liked Thomas Hardy’s poetry, Browning and Evelyn Waugh. “I can read a Joseph Conrad novel three or four times, but pornography only once and then only in small doses. I find the present permissiveness rather boring. By the way, the French translation of my first published book, The Man Within, was censored by Jacques Maritain on the grounds it was pornographic!” That first novel sold 8,000 copies, an impressive number for 1929. “But I wasn’t a commercially successful writer until after the war,” he pointed out. “My first best seller, The Heart of the Matter, was published in 1948. I was in debt to my publishers and wrote book reviews to make ends meet.” Greene thought so poorly of his second and third novels, which sold, respectively, only 2,000 and 1,200 copies, that he simply suppressed them from the list of his works. They have never been republished. “For a lot of money you could find them in a second-hand book
shop. Their titles? Why should I help you?” Did he think that The Man Within was satisfactory? “No,” he admitted, “but you can’t suppress them all. You have to have a first novel, don’t you? Actually, The Man Within was the third book I had written, but the first two were turned down by publishers. If The Man Within had not been published, I would have stopped writing.” Greene objected to being called a Roman Catholic writer. “I don’t believe I have ever gone so far as to describe myself as a novelist who writes about Catholic themes. I am a writer who happens to be a Catholic. No one knew I was a Catholic until Brighton Rock and I had been writing then for 10 years.” Another legend about Graham Greene had him entering and winning all the literary contests of the New Statesman wherein readers were invited to write “in the style of Graham Greene.” “I’ve entered quite a few competitions of this sort,” he acknowledged, “but I have rarely won. Once I did win a second prize for the first paragraph of a Greene novel, under an assumed name, naturally. I wrote a plot on another slip of paper and Mario Soldati made a film out of it in Venice with Trevor Howard. It was called The Stranger’s Hand and my hand appeared on a gondola.” Greene strongly disliked just about every film version of his novels or “entertainments,” the exception being The Third Man, which most people didn’t realize he had written. What Greene liked best was “when a director, like Otto Preminger, acquired an option, for example, for A Burnt-Out Case, let it lapse once, re-acquired it, allowed the option to lapse a second time, and then never made the movie.” Greene admitted that “the money was a temptation, but the cinema versions of my novels always turned out so awful.” Four or five of Greene’s novels were situated in Latin America and the Caribbean, and he was keenly interested in the region’s politics. The overthrow and murder of Salvador Allende, whom Greene knew and admired, and the persecution of his supporters filled him, as he put it to me, “with grief and horror.” “If I had to classify myself politically, I suppose I would say I was a humanist and a socialist. Rather like [the ‘Czechoslavak Spring’ leader] Dubcek. I am certainly on the left. The destruction of the courageous Chilean effort to build socialism with a human face leaves one terribly, terribly sad. It was the way I felt when I learned of Che Guevara’s death.” Greene used to feel that The Power and the Glory, one of his early books, was his best novel. “I no longer think that,” he said. “Now I believe that The Honorary Consul is my best book of fiction.” But didn’t all creative artists think that their most recent work was their finest, I suggested? Didn’t Charlie Chaplin unhesitatingly describe Limelight, as soon as he had shot it, as the best film he had ever made? “I have seldom thought that the last thing I did was the best,” he replied. “This time, with The Honorary Consul, I do. It has certainly given me more trouble than previous novels. There were moments when I realized
perfectly why Hemingway shot himself one day. I was nearly halfway through it before I was sure I’d finish it. I wrote the novel seven times, eight times in fact, since in addition to the seven typescripts there was the original manuscript. I always write books longhand. My two fingers on the typewriter don’t connect with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ballpoint pens are good only for filling in forms on planes.” Long before publication of the book-that-was-almostnot-written, the Book-of-the-Month Club selected it. It was Greene’s third Book Club choice, after A Burnt-Out Case and Travels with My Aunt. Le Monde, France’s most prestigious newspaper, and a German daily asked Greene for permission to serialize the novel in toto. “I refused,” said Greene, “because the rhythm of a novel is destroyed by daily excerpts.” Well, if Greene was not always convinced that his most recent book was his best, was he, like so many artists, bored with the work he had just finished? “Oh, I’m not bored with it,” he exclaimed unconvincingly, “but with life.” PAUL RESS, who spent his last years in Switzerland, was persuaded by his friends to gather some of his stories and notorious puns into a short book entitled Shaggy Dog Tales: 58 ½ Years of Reportage, published by Xlibris at $9.99 for the e-book version, $20.99 as paperback, and $30.99 for the hardback edition. The renowned British biographer Caroline Moorehead, who also worked with Paul, describes his book as a “collection of charming and funny pieces, many about a lost and vanishing world”.
Coronavirus: Community participation and credible information: the core of any serious response Nick van Praag
THE LAST TIME THE WORLD WAS GRIPPED by fears of a pandemic in late 2014, my wife was not amused when I traveled to Sierra Leone – the epicenter of the Ebola crisis – a few weeks before our family assembled for the end of year celebrations. She was less worried about me – I am always doing crazy things – than endangering her children because of what she considered the irresponsible exploits of their father. Fast forward to 2020 and we are once again in the grip of health-related fears, this time the impact of Covid-19 – not just on our families but on the planet as we know it. As we northerners ‘shelter in place’ – washing our hands, covering our faces, and avoiding each other – we must not forget people living on the fringes of our societies, such as the homeless, or those in the developing world who live in camps for refugees and the displaced, and the crowded shanty towns that surround so many thirdworld cities. For them, existence is already a daily struggle without the additional strains posed by the Coronavirus. As the pandemic takes root in under-served and vulnerable communities around the world, a response that considers their own perspective is vital if the current crisis is not to become a catastrophe. The Imperial College London report on the pandemic, which convinced governments in the US and the UK to get serious about special measures, talks about the possibility of 40 million deaths worldwide; Bill Gates has warned that 10 million people in Africa may die. Whatever happens, a disproportionate share of the victims in low-income and fragile states will likely be in the poorest communities of the Global South, where national authorities and aid agencies are already struggling to keep up.
ENABLING PEOPLE TO HELP THEMSELVES If the response is to have half a chance, people need to know how they can best protect themselves and their families in crowded conditions that don’t allow for physical distancing and in places where there are no ventilators or intensive care units. In such hard environments, it’s all about enabling people to help themselves. The extent to which they act in their own individual and collective selfinterest depends on whether they know what to do and this, in turn, depends on whether they trust and adhere to the advice they get. Where compliance with that advice is physically impossible, they need a means to say so and for decision-makers to hear their voices. It is critical that community participation is at the core of the response, no matter how hard this seems from a distance. Tracking the perceptions of people hit by crisis is now increasingly accepted as a tool in managing performance in the world’s trouble spots. During the Ebola crisis in 2014-15 our organization, Ground Truth Solutions, did regular surveys of citizens and frontline health staff in Sierra Leone, using their perceptions as an indicator of
progress in the fight against the disease and helping guide the emergency response.
DEALING WITH THE PERCEPTION GAP We need this same approach to deal with Covid-19 if we are to determine whether or not people trust and understand the messages and actions of health specialists. Do people know what to do to keep the virus at bay? What will encourage them to comply with measures intended to protect them? Do they believe the response is making progress against the spread of Covid-19? We need to know whether people understand what they should do – and the extent to which they will do so – because we have learned that the cooperation of an informed and engaged population is central to effectively tackling killer diseases. It is also important to explore people’s take on other factors that will determine their resilience, such as social cohesion as communities unravel under the pressures and livelihood support as they struggle to make ends meet. Right now, there is a major gap in our collective understanding of the way ordinary people see things. The many polls we see are mostly conducted online and ignore the views of people who are not. When they do cover fragile states, they are not representative of the broader population, certainly not those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. Significantly, they are not linked in a systematic way to decision making in the health coordination structures. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, people will be affected by the Coronavirus. As it spreads, we need to understand how ordinary people experience the response in their cities and villages, and the shifting balance between activities designed to tackle the outbreak and those intended to meet the long-term economic challenges. There is a raft of national and international organisations involved in the response, adding to the importance of making sure that decision-makers have access to community feedback to guide their decisions and their messaging. My family, thankfully, never got close to contracting Ebola. But my wife’s concern highlights how perceptions are central in health emergencies. As national health authorities and aid agencies scramble to respond to Covid-19, racing the clock to provide health supplies and information to the most at-risk communities, understanding how people experience the crisis will be critical to whether the response averts catastrophe – or leaves individuals and families in the world’s hardest places to grapple helplessly with the unimaginable fallout. NICK VAN PRAAG is the head of Ground Truth Solutions, an
international non-governmental organisation based in Vienna, that helps people affected by crisis influence the design and implementation of humanitarian aid.
Pangolins and pandemics: digging for the roots of COVID-19 William Thatcher Dowell
Wet market with wildlife products in China. (Photo: William Dowell)
Overcoming COVID-19 may be our most immediate concern, but it would be a mistake to think it will all be over when this pandemic ends. Failure to deal with pressing environmental issues, global warming, the destruction of the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s forests and the population explosion, will lead to more catastrophes. We still have time, but barely.
WHILE REPORTING IN SOUTHEAST ASIA during the 1990s, I used to stop at a place we called the ‘Endangered Species Restaurant.’ It was on the road from the Thai border back to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. The corpse of a monkey was crucified to a wooden frame that leaned against the wall. The monkey, along with various body parts of other unidentified animals, made up the luncheon menu. Later, while reporting in the Congo, I observed the natives along the Congo River eating live caterpillars, doused with what looked like red pepper, the local equivalent of popcorn. Unusual animals weren’t the only target in a Third World environment hungry for protein. My wife’s father had worked as a bush doctor in the Congo during the 1950’s. One of his tasks was to inspect meat in the local market with a sharp eye for anything that looked vaguely human. The global palate is clearly a lot more complicated than the bland fast food fare you find at a McDonalds or Burger King. The Chinese, like many cultures, have a reputation for being ready to experiment with their food sources and their local markets can include wild animals, just as African populations eat “bush meat”. The COVID-19 pandemic may provide a new incentive for many people, including Chinese, to consider more carefully where the food on their plate actually comes from.
WILDLIFE MARKETS MAY PROVE RESPONSIBLE…
While scientists are still working to identify the cause of the outbreak, major attention has focused on the pangolin, a scaly anteater, highly sought after in parts of Asia for its delicate culinary qualities as well as for its scales that are valued by Chinese traditional medicine, and which is sold in Villager in the Congo region preparing crocodile meat. (Photo: William Dowell) “wet” markets near Wuhan. Traces of viruses that match COVID-19 have also shown up in snakes, parts of the continent such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ivory that were sold as food in the market, as well as in bats. Coast and Mali, so-called ‘bush meat’ – an extremely Bats are known to serve as a reservoir for valued source of protein for poor people – is regularly coronaviruses. Over time they have built an immunity sold in markets or along roads. This consists of wild and can carry the virus without being harmed by it. The animals, usually cooked, dried or smoked (the best way pangolin may have served as an intermediate amplifier. for preserving the meat) ranging from cane rat and fruit Its reduced immunity allowed the virus to expand in it bats to monkeys, snakes, duikers and turtles. According to until an unsuspecting consumer ate it. There have also conservation groups, even chimpanzees and gorrillas are been suggestions that the virus might have escaped after killed for ‘bush meat’. an accident in one of Wuhan’s two biological research These markets traditionally sell both domestic and laboratories in Wuhan. Both handle dangerous viruses wild animals that are alive, destined to be slaughtered similar to COVID-19. US intelligence experts have tended on the spot and then cooked and eaten. Especially in to downplay that as unlikely given the presence of the China, freshness is highly valued when it comes to food. virus in animals that were being sold for food. The Snakes, another delicacy sold in the market, were also an consensus favours the pangolin as the vector, and it very early suspect. Like the pangolin, the snakes appeared to likely emerged from a “wet” market in Wuhan, China. have traces of viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2, the cause of The consumption of wildlife, of course, is nothing COVID-19. On the basis of previous coronavirus epidemics, unusual in certain parts of the world, whether iguanas bats are a further suspect as the original source but do not (often referred to as ‘spring chicken’) in the Caribbean, feature as an edible item on the stalls though they could song birds in Italy and Spain, or bear and deer meat in the pass the virus to other animals kept in such close quarters. United States. In Africa, particularly in central and western
…BUT THE CHINESE ARE FAILING TO TAKE PROPER ACTION China initially tried to shut down its wet markets shortly after the coronavirus outbreak hit Wuhan, but then gradually relented. The markets, which resemble the livestock sections of farmer’s markets in western countries, are too pervasive and are the main source of food for too many people to close them down completely. This is despite calls by anti-wildlife trafficking groups, such as the World Conservation Society in New York, for the permanent closure of all wildlife markets given the threat of passing on viral diseases like SARS-CoV-2. The real problem, of course, is the unsanitary conditions that exist in many of these poorly controlled wet markets. The animals are kept in cages, often stacked one on top of the other. Captive animals are frequently splattered with urine and faeces from the cages above them, and all the slaughtering at one place can often occur in the same place. The danger of contamination with an unexpected virus increases substantially when wildlife is crowded next to domestic animals. The pangolin holds a special place on the endangered species list. Estimates suggest that pangolins account for up to 20 per cent of the illegal trade in threatened species. During the 1990s you could buy pangolin meat for around $7 a pound. The price today is easily $300. Specialists note that young Chinese do not eat wildlife as much as their parents these days. But for some in China’s fast-growing middle class, with money to burn, serving a pangolin for dinner is a powerful status symbol, proof that one has arrived. China has repeatedly banned the sale of pangolins, along with other endangered species, but outlawing the animal has only increased its market value. TRAFFIC, a network monitoring the global trade in wildlife, reported that despite repeatedly outlawing its sale, some 90,000 pangolins were smuggled illegally into China between 2007 and 2016. And mainland China is not the only destination for the illegal trade. In January 2019, according to the New York Times, a shipment of nine tonnes of pangolin scales, taken from roughly 14,000 animals, was seized in Hong Kong. That was followed a month later with the confiscation of some 33 tonnes of pangolin meat in Malaysia and then, two months later, 14 tonnes in Singapore. China’s trade in wildlife products coupled with COVID-19 also has other forms of global impact.
COVID-19: ONLY THE LATEST DISASTER IN THE WAY WE TREAT NATURE Everyone was in on the game. No one thought it would trigger a worldwide pandemic that would cost trillions of dollars and possibly alter the global economy. The pandemic, which began in Wuhan, is just the latest indication of a catastrophic reaction to human encroachment on nature and, more specifically, increasingly stressed endangered species. There have been repeated warnings that disruption of the world’s natural
habitat threatens what could amount to a sixth extinction. The wanton destruction is not without consequences. Estimates are that up to 70 per cent of the new diseases appearing on the planet are zoonotic; in other words, carried by animals. While the impact of COVID-19 has proven catastrophic, scientists warn that as many as 1.7 million viruses may as yet be unrecorded. Widespread destruction of rainforests and woodlands, the unprecedented expansion of global tourism and increased crowding in cities have naturally exposed more people to new viruses and exotic diseases than at any previous time in history. Inexpensive worldwide air transport makes it possible for a virus to travel to almost any location on the planet in a few hours. Pollution, climate change, an uncontrolled population explosion over the last century and the loss of natural habitat are all combining to place an unendurable stress on the planet’s ecosystem.
HOW CAN SOMETHING SO SMALL DISRUPT OUR LIVES? The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates how a submicroscopic particle that is not even really alive (they need a living organism to replicate) can totally disrupt the planet. A retrovirus is literally nothing more than a strand of RNA (ribonucleic acid) accompanied by a few proteins and wrapped in a protective coating. Simple soapy water disrupts the coating, rendering the virus ineffective. That is why frequent hand washing is so important in the pandemic. Under an electron microscope, the proteins are seen as the little knobs that stick out from the body of the virus. In a number of ways, a retrovirus is like a few bits of computer programming. It can’t reproduce itself. Instead, it penetrates the nucleus of a cell. An enzyme, known as a reverse transcriptase, converts the RNA strand to DNA, which then hijacks the cell getting it to reproduce the virus along with the altered cell. At first, the COVID-19 virus, more formally known as SARS-CoV-2, was dismissed as little more than a bad case of the flu. It is now emerging as a great deal more than that. Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 170,000 people and infected more than 2.4 million. While many do survive, scientists are learning that the damage that COVID-19 does to the human body is far more terrifying than originally realized. The patients who succumb to the virus experience a lack of oxygen which eventually allows a liquid buildup in their lungs that literally drowns them. The only medical solution at that stage is to artificially put the patient into a coma and then plant a tube in the trachea and have a respirator take over the patient’s breathing. Nearly half the patients never wake up again. The virus enters the human body through the lungs, but it then immediately bonds with an enzyme known as an angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which exists on the surface of the lungs and on other organs, as well. Once that is accomplished, the virus can easily enter the blood stream and pass to other organs in the
body including the liver. That explains why different symptoms as well as damage to the heart, kidneys and bowels have been reported along with problems with inflammation throughout the body.
DESPITE INCOMPETENT POLITICAL LEADERS, PANDEMICS ARE ACTUALLY WELL-UNDERSTOOD Just as the virus hijacks living cells, this depends for its effectiveness as an engine of destruction on the vulnerabilities and habits of people who have become the major agents of contagion. COVID-19 is extremely dangerous precisely because the main actor responsible for spreading the contamination now is an ordinary human being. Getting people to realize that is not Astronauts from the International Space Station who recently returned to earth in mid-April 2020 said that even from an easy proposition. When the president of outer space they could witness a far cleaner environment inadvertently brought about by the spread of coronavirus the United States faces a situation in which resulting in the closure of polluting factories and a staggering drop in road transport meaning massively reduced C02 emissions. (Photo: NASA) more than 40,000 Americans have died and he still refuses to wear a protective mask believe right now, the pandemic will eventually end. When in public, despite the advice from some of his country’s it does, it would be a mistake to think that the problem is medical experts, you might think that something is terribly over. The rampant natural destruction, which made the wrong with the people we depend on to lead us. outbreak possible, will continue unless serious attention The fact is that pandemics are very well understood. is paid to re-establishing a sustainable environmental They follow predictable patterns that are relatively easy to equilibrium. model. The first real breakthrough occurred in 1927, when When a virus encounters a susceptible host with little two British scientists, A. G. McKendrick and W.O. Kermack, or no immunity, it expands out of control. There is literally published a paper entitled A Mathematical Contribution nothing that can stop it until it so overwhelms everything to the Theory of Epidemics. Their most important insight around it that there is no place left to go, nothing left to was that the end of an epidemic has nothing to do with infect. The only option left for the virus is to implode, how many people have died, or how many people are still killing its host and itself along with it. There is a current susceptible to be infected. The only thing that counts is the theory that that pattern is not limited only to viruses. number of susceptible individuals who come in contact The human population, which now includes nearly 8 with each person who is infected with the virus. billion people, has also been expanding at a rate that also The critical formula that determines this is usually seems out of control, even though the rate of increase has referred to as “R0” – pronounced “R-naught”, the contagion slowed somewhat in the last few years. As far as nature coefficient. “R” represents the reproductive capacity of goes, there is literally nothing standing in our way except the virus. The “0” or “naught” represents the number of the limited resources of the planet. (See Tira Shubart’s people likely to come into contact with someone carrying article on how the recently returned astronauts in the the virus. If you can reduce that number to one or less, International Space Station viewed the impact of COVID-19 you are home free. If not, a slightly larger number than from outer space). one will dramatically increase the rate at which the If we continue to destroy the world’s natural epidemic spreads. habitat and drive the rest of nature towards extinction, humankind may reach the point at which existence is TESTING IS THE KEY no longer sustainable. We will undoubtedly get through this pandemic. What we should be concerned with is the Without a vaccine, which could take a year to develop, next cataclysm which might take place if we don’t rethe best way to reduce the contagion coefficient to less establish a sustainable balance between ourselves and the than one is to identify everyone carrying the virus and to environment on which we depend. isolate them before they can infect anyone else. The only way to do that is to institute widespread testing so that you WILLIAM THATCHER DOWELL, is the Americas editor of Global have an accurate picture of exactly who is carrying the Geneva. As a foreign correspondent he has reported widely across virus. (See Andy Cohen’s article on Switzerland’s failure to the globe for news organizations such as TIME, ABC News and NBC. implement a proper testing strategy) Dowell is also co-author with Winter Nie of the book “In the Shadow All this may sound impossible, but it is not. It is how of the Dragon: The Global Expansion of Chinese Companies –and How Singapore, Korea and Hong Kong were able to rapidly put It Will Change Business Forever“. Dowell is also a a co-editor of The a halt to the outbreak of SARS. Although it is difficult to Essential Field Guide to Afghanistan.
Chronic diseases are the real pandemic: Join the healthy food movement Coast Sullenger
The risk of worldwide famine as a result of COVID-19, particularly amongst vulnerable populations in the developing world, is now almost a certainty. (Photo: WFP)
Once COVID-19 passes, the world will face the urgent global challenges of climate change, widespread economic malfunction and the threat of new pandemics crossing from animal sources to humans. Geneva-based investment advisor Coast Sullenger argues in our Oped Section "Agent Provocateur" that there’s an even more fundamental dilemma we need to tackle: our unhealthy food habits and ‘industrialized diets’. THIS IS HOW THE CLERGYMAN THOMAS MALTHUS SAW our inevitable future in the 18th century when population expands beyond the capacity of the planet to sustain it: “Epidemics, pestilence and plague advance in terrific array, with famine following, to complete the great work of extermination.” Thanks to technology and medicine, the global population has grown far beyond what Malthus would have ever thought possible (7.8 billion today) and there is enough food to keep everyone alive, even though there is much waste and it is still poorly distributed. But around the time of the last financial crisis in 2008, the prices of food staples like wheat, corn, and rice shot up so high that nearly 500 million people on earth were pushed into poverty and malnutrition. Somehow, Malthus’s pessimistic vision lives on, and keeps resurfacing. How can we finally prove him wrong?
MOVING BEYOND THE PANDEMIC: THE RISK OF FAMINE In a world now destabilized by pandemic, the WHO and some other organizations now warn that another 150200 million poor people risk imminent famine. And what about over 2 billion people on our planet who now suffer from obesity, and the many more who now suffer chronic diseases due to poor diets? We urgently need to make changes in our food and agricultural systems, I argue, in order to avoid catastrophe. We have been consuming ever more scarce resources as the world population increases. Our societal model is extractive and not regenerative, competitive and not cooperative. So we continue to deplete the earth’s riches, exacerbating the disharmony with nature. Take the case of nitrogen and carbon, both vital
chronic diseases. Care for chronic illness costs an average of USD 5,300 per person per year in the US, more than annual salaries in many poorer countries.
HEALTHY AGRICULTURE OFFERS ONE OF THE BEST SOLUTIONS
Food production across the globe. (Photo: WFP)
elements for plant growth and nutrition. Through unsustainable and extractive agricultural practices, we continue to remove them from the soil and push them into the atmosphere. Industrial agriculture generates excessive emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane that are pollutants and greenhouse gases.
CHRONIC DISEASES: A NEED TO MOVE AWAY FROM 'INDUSTRIALIZED DIETS' Monocultures are now also the norm in agriculture, driven by monopolistic companies (major chemical and fertilizer producers) that have a lock on seed patents and push the intensive use of chemical fertilizers and toxic crop protection. As a result, particularly since industrialization, we as a population have also weakened our own health and immunity by adopting unnatural “industrialized” diets. Lifestyle issues like lack of movement as well as stress/ negativity are also to blame. And so, we have become more vulnerable to a wide range of health threats, including viruses. The figures paint a very clear picture; over half of global mortality is now the result of chronic diseases and this number continues to grow steadily across almost all regions on our planet. In the US, the birthplace of fast and industrialized food, the rate is much greater: one out of seven deaths are due to chronic conditions, with cardiovascular disease in the lead, killing nearly 650,000 people each year. Statistically, chronic disease is by far the greater pandemic! The global sugar and high fructose corn syrup industries pump out over a USD 100 billion worth of toxic sweeteners every year. This is a leading cause of the booming rates in diabetes. These sweeteners are toxic for the human body at current rates of consumption. Who had heard of endocrine disorders 20 or 30 years ago? Many of the major health conditions we struggle with today hardly existed 50 years ago. Today, nearly 70 per cent of the healthcare budget in the US is spent on treating
Yet it’s clear what foods we need to avoid or consume in moderation. Thanks to digitalization and interconnectivity, we have immediate access to unbiased health experts who are not influenced by the Big Food lobbies. If there is still any doubt, we can scan products on the shelves with any number of phone apps and avoid excess sugar, salt and hazardous chemicals. At the same time, agriculture offers one of the best solutions to the global environmental and health challenge. Plants themselves, particularly “pulse crops” (beans, lentils, chickpeas) that are rich in proteins, are not only a healthy alternative to traditional meat, but they fix nitrogen and other elements needed for their growth in the soil. Such crops actually have the capacity to reverse the current disequilibrium in carbon and heal the planet. Growing healthy food is in and of itself “regenerative”. It involves enriching soils, through use of cover crops and other methods, fixing carbon from the atmosphere and other essential nutrients, and avoiding toxins. It also fosters essential biodiversity, unlike industrialized monocrops. Nutritious food produced by regenerative farming is healthy and can boost compromised immune systems, allowing people to avoid taking drugs to treat chronic conditions. Stop buying industrial white flour and over-sweetened/ over-salty processed foods, or groceries with excess plastic packaging. Initially, this junk will sit on the shelves, but then producers and retailers will get the message. Consumer behaviour is the most important economic signal to drive the shift. Soft-drink companies and fastfood groups need to change their recipes and BIG GULPS should come with health warnings. Send producers a clear message by not consuming this junk! We will thus empower growers by consuming raw or minimally processed food and paying for good health, rather than encouraging unhealthy and over-processed food production that is destroying our health, immunity and the environment. COAST SULLENGER, is Head of Thematic Investments at Landolt
et Cie, the second oldest bank in French-speaking Switzerland, and the Principal of GAIA Family Office that is his private office. He was previously a portfolio manager for Lombard Odier private bank, based in Geneva.
Bangkok is Sinking
but so are other Southeast Asian megacities...
Many of Bangkok’s remaining waterways are little more than open sewers and garbage dumps. Urban planners recommend that these be rehabilitated and cleared if the sinking of Bangkok is to be halted. (Photo: George Flood-Hunt)
Jakarta, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). All three Southeast Asian coastal cities may now be grappling with coronavirus, but they also have something else in common: they are being threatened by sea water, primarily because of climate change. According to recent studies, HCMC, formerly Saigon, could slip under water by 2050 with millions of people in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, the country’s main rice-growing region, forced to flee. With regard to Jakarta, the Indonesian government has already proposed to move the capital to a new location in Borneo. As for Bangkok, it risks being inundated within 15-20 years unless the government starts taking more appropriate action. Swiss National Public Radio correspondent Karin Wenger has been exploring how the Thai capital, a megacity now approaching 10 million, and its nearby coastal areas are being currently affected.
SOMNEUK ATIPANYO, A BUDDHIST ABBOT, stands in front of his temple south of Bangkok looking out to sea. Here, he says, pointing to the waves lapping at the shoreline, 20 years ago there was an enclosed pond in which villagers of Khun Samut Chin cultivated shrimp. In those days, the sea was not even close. “But then wind and waves became stronger,” he says. “The pond was flooded and many villagers had to move elsewhere.” Lying barely a few kilometres south of Bangkok, the village can now only be reached by boat. As for the temple, it has waves at its base and is only protected from being washed away by a concrete wall. For many coastal farmers and fishermen, this is seriously bad news. Part of a multi-billion dollar industry representing the world’s largest shrimp exporting country, shrimp farms such as the one at Khun Samut Chin were established along Thailand’s coastal areas, eliminating protective mangrove forests in the process. This has enabled the sea to encroach steadily inland. Footbridges and paths on piled-up earth walls lead from the temple to the village huts, where women work, shucking oysters for sale in the markets. Village head Visanu Khengsamut points to various aerial photographs that he has hung on the wall. They show how the village has changed over the past five decades. “In the last years, the winds and the waves have caused very bad erosion,” he explains. “The sea has swallowed up huge parts of the village.” At one point, he adds, the sea was more than a kilometre away; it is now at his front door. Originally, the village consisted of one thousand inhabitants, but with increasing amounts of land, plus their homes, lost to the sea, barely 200 remain.
CLIMATE CHANGE: THE REGION’S GREATEST RISK As with many other parts of Southeast Asia, climate change and its consequences are already well-established as a reality for both Thailand’s southern coastal areas and Bangkok itself. According to Loretta Hieber-Girardet, regional director of the United Nations Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) unit for Asia-Pacific, climate change has emerged as the region’s greatest risk. “There is either too little water, which leads to droughts or shortages affecting agricultural production,” she maintains. “Or there is too much, which means floods, landslides and other forms of disaster.” According to a September, 2019, report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with input by over 130 scientists worldwide, rising sea levels in Southeast Asia are being driven by greenhouse gas emissions, climate change, heavy rainfall, warming oceans and the accelerated melting of ice in the polar regions. The report also asserts that coastlines are far more vulnerable to rising sea levels than satellite data initially appeared to indicate. Previous predictions, it maintains, underestimated land loss and population displacement by about one-third. While some scientists argue that such predictions are “too worst-case scenario”, more recent reports appear to agree.
The end result is that today more and more people are fleeing natural disasters than conflicts, which, until recently were considered to be the principal source of crises prompting people to leave. Now climate refugee and migrants represent a new phenomenon. According to both the IPCC and other studies, an estimated 237 million people in Asia now live in areas that can be expected to be flooded under sea water in the coming decades. As HieberGirardet argues, “governments urgently need to wake up to these threats by recognizing new realities and investing in preventative measures.”
Somneuk Atipanyo, a Buddhist abbot: The waves have become higher and the winds stronger. Only a wall now protects his temple. (Photo: Karin Wenger)
BANGKOK: A CITY SINKING AT THE RATE OF 2-3 CENTIMETERS A YEAR A closer look at Bangkok itself underlines such points. Originally built on swampy land and layers of soft clay, this megacity roughly the size of New York is connected to the sea by the Chao Phraya River. In recent years, it has been sinking at the rate of two centimetres annually. Some scientists now believe that the rate has increased even to three centimetres. With its many canals, it was once considered the Venice of the East. But today, most of these canals have been covered over with roads and now form the principal basis of the city’s sewage system. Prof. Thon Thamrongnawasawat, a Thai marine biologist with the Faculty of Fish Sciences and an advisor to the government on climate issues, stands at a main downtown traffic intersection in the centre of Bangkok. Gesturing to the street, he notes that the government is currently seeking to expand its sewage network, including the installation of pumps. It is promising to solve the flood problem, he explains, “but there is still regular major flooding.” Other scientists, too, are critical of the government’s failure over the years to recognize that the city is sinking. Regardless of such measures, the level of Bangkok, which now reportedly stands at barely 1.5 metres above sea level, continues to drop. During the monsoon season, which runs from May to October with torrential downpours, the water is simply not draining. Too much
But the real problem, many point out, lies with the current construction boom for housing, offices and commercial zones, such as huge shopping centres. Any available green spaces, or potential open areas such as abandoned go-downs, railway sidings or even former farms, are fast disappearing. Many back zones in between the main thoroughfares remain relatively green with residential housing and gardens, but even these are being rapidly consumed by new development.
A NEED FOR NEW VISION AND IDEAS The villagers of Khun Samut Chin have built bamboo barriers to help stave off the waters, giving them time to plant protective mangroves forests. (Photo: Karin Wenger)
of the city surface has been tarmacked over or covered with concrete, primarily because of massive urbanization. And with the rising sea, the problem becomes steadily worse. According to the Thai Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency (GISTDA), another problem – similar to other megacities across the globe – is the tapping of groundwater by both industry and residents. While officially banned, the practice reportedly continues.
JAKARTA: A LOST CAUSE RESULTING IN THE CAPITAL’S MOVE TO A NEW LOCATION Even worse than Bangkok, Jakarta has been sinking so badly that it now ranks as one of the fastest subsiding cities in the world. Last summer Indonesian president Joko Widodo said that the capital would be moved to Kalimantan on the island of Borneo. With some parts of the city sinking at the rate of 10-20 centimetres a year, the World Bank recently estimated that 40 per cent of Jakarta has dropped below sea level, much of it – like Bangkok – caused by the pumping of ground water, thus preventing water from draining properly into the sea. The solutions are evident. For Bangkok, there needs to be a complete change in the manner with which the city is dealing with urbanization. The city, argues Prof Thamrongnawasawat, urgently needs more green spaces and more visionary town planning. Furthermore, mangrove forests need to be re-planted, plus barriers and dykes installed in coastal areas. Only in this manner can the water be held back.
One proposal is to uncover the klongs, or canals, but not use them as open sewers. Some canal rehabilitation is indeed happening, but scientists maintain that it must be done on a far more ambitious basis. This includes perhaps using open waterways for public transportation but also recreational purposes as a means of cutting back on road traffic, which has reached horrendous levels. While the overall situation remains bleak, there are some positive signs. In Khun Samut Chin, where the sea has doggedly eroded the land, its inhabitants have sought solutions. According to Visanu Khengsamut, they have sought to construct a bulwark against the rising waters. Standing on an earthen wall, the village chief points to rows of bamboo fencing stretching over kilometres. The outside rows serve as dams, he explains, which can stave off the water. The land behind has now formed into a wide, open swamp, where they are now planting mangroves. This, he explains, helps prevent further erosion by retaining land sediment. “It takes barely four years to grow an entire mangrove forest which will protect the village as long as no major storms occur,” maintains the chief. Even the government has noticed these improvements, he points out. It has now provided them with discarded electricity poles, which are more stable than the bamboo walls and should last longer. As urban planners are realizing, unless the sea is halted on the outskirts, the next to be flooded will be Bangkok itself.
KARIN WENGER, is the Southeast Asia correspondent for Ger-
man-language Swiss National Public Radio (SRF) based in Bangkok. This article is based on a shorter broadcast produced earlier this year.
Queen, Oasis and the Ridge Farm Story The Editors
Freddy Mercury statue in Montreux, Switzerland (Photo: Swiss-Image / Markus Buehler-Rasom)
With its stunning view of the Alps, the Lake Geneva town of Montreux claimed Zanzibar-born Freddie Mercury as its own ever since the British rock musician made it his second home in the late 1970s. Based out of ‘Duck House’, a shoreside villa, Mercury ran his own studio where the rock band Queen recorded their last album “Made in Heaven”. Mercury managed to do the vocals shortly before his death in 1991. Five years later, Montreux, which hosts the annual international Jazz Festival, dedicated a statue in his memory. For Mercury, Montreux was always an inspiring place. But there was another location which also played a crucial role: Ridge Farm, a rustic studio retreat in the English countryside. Prior to the Coronavirus lockdowns, Global Geneva editor Edward Girardet visited this former rock ‘n roll gathering place to speak with its two original founders, the Andrews brothers.
Freddy Mercury having a 'cuppa' at Ridge Farm (Photo: Ridge Farm Archive)
WHEN SOME 30 POLICE OFFICERS raided both Ridge Farm, one of England’s earliest rural rock recording studios, and the nearby Plough Pub, at 6.00 am in spring, 1982, they were hoping to bust what they thought was an international drug ring. The police had been doing clandestine surveillance of both establishments located just outside the small West Sussex village of Rusper. For days, too, undercover drug squad officers drank at the pub to observe its comings and goings. But all they could find were traces of marijuana in an ashtray of the pub’s private quarters. At the farm some two kilometers away, they only secured small amounts of hash. Their meagre haul was not exactly what the police had expected, particularly given that certain well-heeled residents in this affluent part of England’s Stockbroker Belt with its gardened manors, manicured cottages and horse stables considered Ridge Farm to be a rock ‘n roll “den of iniquity’. After all, what else would these longhaired rock musicians from leading bands such as Queen, Bad Company, Roxy Music and Black Sabbath be doing in the depths of rural Albion? The Plough was particularly well-known. Most evenings it would attract crowds with the knowledge that pop stars regularly turned up from Ridge Farm to drink, relax and show off. Ozzy Ozbourne, who was then with
his newly-formed band Blizzard of Oz, was renowned for his heavy drinking, but also for his magnanimousness by standing drinks for anyone who happened to be there. “He was very popular and liked to stick his whole face into a glass of beer. People found that very funny, but not too happy when he pissed outside. A very nice guy though,” recalls Billy Andrews, who, together with his brother Frank, had set up Ridge Farm as a creative retreat for rock groups.
THE LOCAL ESTABLISHMENT WAS NEVER TOO KEEN “There was a real atmosphere of freedom and happiness,” notes Frank, who, with his shoulder-length grey hair, looks as if he has just been transported into the present as an older version of a late 1960s younger self. “Sure, there were drugs, but it was all pretty low-key, or it was all behind the scenes even if some really wild things did go on.“ For the two brothers, it was clear that some of the local ‘pommy’ Establishment didn’t like what was happening and probably reported them to the police. Fortunately, at the time of the raid there was no band at Ridge Farm and is probably why the police did not find anything egregious.
Billy, however, who is now 65 and the more effusive of the two brothers, was fined 40 pounds for the remains of a joint in the pub, which was run by his mother. Disappointed, the police blocked the renewal of The Plough’s alcohol license, a decidedly underhand move which eventually forced the family to sell the establishment. “This was a pity because the pub had just won the Egon Ronay Cheese Pub of the Year Award for the whole of England,” explains Frank wistfully. At the time, the Egon Ronay Food Guide, which is now run by the Royal Automobile Society, was widely renowned for its good taste and responsible for significantly raising the quality of British restaurant food from a broadly mediocre base. As for Ridge Farm, the police charged their father, John Andrews, the Cambridge-educated Chief Engineer of the National Coal Board, with being the mastermind behind the supposed drug ring. It took several years for the father to clear his name. Nevertheless, the tension created led to the departure in 1983 of Billy, leaving Frank to continue developing Ridge Farm into one of Britain’s most important countryside production and recording locations for leading bands, including Oasis, Roxy Music, Pearl Jam, Bad Company, OMD and Wet Wet Wet. This continued until the early 2000s. But by then, the record business had changed. Major companies preferred that their protégés use their own establishments in London or Los Angeles rather than disappear into the rural outback. Furthermore, given Ridge Farm’s success, other entrepreneurs had set up their own recording studios. The last musician to record at Ridge was Joe Jackson, a British performer and songwriter, in 2002.
SECLUDED AND RUSTIC: A MOST UNLIKELY ROCK CENTRE Located in a quiet, out-of-the-way rural setting with 16th century converted farm buildings, swimming pool, tennis court and sprawling woodland garden, basically, the romantic English country idyll, Ridge Farm now operates as a much sought-after location for weddings, birthdays, business meetings and other events. Its corridors are lined with best-selling disc awards for the Ridge Farm bands and other memorabilia, such as the same croquet set that Queen used. Or the kitchen where the staff catered meals for the bands; some of them sometimes cooked for themselves or at least made tea. More recently, the Farm has attracted nostalgia aficionados, particularly from China and Japan, wishing to see where Freddy Mercury played tennis or the Gallagher brothers of Oasis sat around producing – and arguing. “The idea of setting up a studio at the farm was obvious,” recalls Frank Andrews as we drink tea and eat baked potato in what used to be Ridge Farm’s main studio building. His brother Billy and two collaborators – both veteran music technicians who have been working on and off at Ridge Farm for decades – are chatting with us. “All these bands needed an out-of-the-way place to rehearse and to record…to get away from all the London distractions,” he adds. The first band to come in 1975 – Ridge Farm’s launch year – was Back Street Crawler, an English-American rock band founded by former Free musician, Paul Kossoff. As Frank explains, they turned up with Ronnie Laine’s
One of the Ridge Farm buildings, now a guest house. (Photo: Edward Girardet)
"It was a fantastic time" Billy (left) and Frank (right) Andrews at Ridge Farm. (Photo: Ed Girardet)
mobile recording unit. Laine, who died in 1997 of multiple sclerosis, was best known as a musician, producer and songwriter as well as a founding member of the British rock group The Small Faces – and later Faces. “It all took off right after that. The bands started coming.” Despite their earlier dispute, Frank and Billy now regularly see each other. As we talk, both are eager to share their reminiscences of the studio’s heyday since the mid1970s until well into the 90s. For three of their five kids, now in their twenties and also listening in the kitchen, this was the first time that they have heard some of these stories. “Of course, it was all very basic in the beginning… just a place to rehearse,” continues Frank, eyes sparkling at past memories.
QUEEN, BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY AND THE RIDGE FARM PIANO Frank’s main job was lighting technician for Queen, Rolling Stones, ABBA and other groups during their concert tours across the UK and Europe. “I would often be away for months on end,” he recalls. “It was a fantastic time…And there are lot of stories I’m not going to tell you,” he adds with an enigmatic smile. When Queen told him that they were looking for a place to get away, he suggested Ridge Farm. Queen turned up for six weeks in 1975. At the time, the band was still relatively unknown, but in the process of exploding onto the scene. They were working on “Night at the Opera”, their fourth album. Frank had yet to install the studio’s state-of-the-art recording facilities, so the four band members only used the farm to write and compose
their songs. They later travelled to Rockfield in Wales to record. The 2018 movie Bohemian Rhapsody, which profiles Freddy Mercury’s life, depicts Ridge Farm but another location was used for the filming. The band lived in the main building with its irregular wooden staircases, uneven floors and secluded bedrooms, each one completely different. “There was very much a family atmosphere. It was all very informal with flared trousers, or in the case of Freddie, very short shorts and black-painted fingernails,” recalls Frank. “They played snooker and tennis – Freddie was really good at tennis. Or they went for swims in the indoor pool. They also loved our dog and were constantly playing with it.” Evenings they would all drive to the pub to chat and relax. “Some of the pommy clientele probably hid their daughters when the lads came in with their long hair and jeans,” adds Billy with a grin. Both brothers agree that Freddie was extremely quiet and shy, and very polite. For a musician later renowned for his ostentatious behaviour and for being gay, or at least bi-sexual, and who died of AIDS, Mercury also turned up with his girlfriend Mary. “Really not quite what you would expect, but clearly a very complex fellow,” he adds. Smiling, Billy nods in agreement. “Queen were exceptional.” “Yeah, but Queen were very serious. Very professional. They worked hard,” interjects Frank. He points to the room next door, which still serves as a studio by one of the Andrews’ children. It is crammed with equipment, boxes and other items. Frank gestures to the piano. “I like to imagine that Freddie composed ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on it,” he muses. “In actual fact, he didn’t like our piano
Members of Queen jamming at Ridge Farm (Photo: Ridge Farm Archives)
and had his own brought in, you know, the famous white one. But as far as we’re concerned, our piano was the inspirational one.”
ESTABLISHING ONE OF THE UK’S LEADING MUSICAL RETREATS As wild as many of these bands were, Frank understood the need to get away in order to rehearse and work on their songs. On return from one of these tours, he found that his parents had moved and no longer wished to live at the farm. So together with Billy, they proceeded to transform one of the old buildings into a studio. Several years later, once the Ridge Farm began to prove successful, Frank arranged to buy the farm off his parents. From then onwards, Frank and Bill began to develop Ridge Farm into a musical retreat. This was before the two feuded. “A bit too much drinking and too many drugs,” admits Billy with a laugh. “I was a bit all over the place. There were also a lot of roadies around.” Consisting of several typical post-medieval main buildings and barns partially constructed from old ship lumber, Ridge Farm proved ideal. Not only did it offer both space and privacy, but it was also not far from London. Barely one hour and 30 minutes drive from Gatwick Airport. While the two brothers together with several other tour technicians created a studio, it was initially only for rehearsing, not recording. The bands had to bring their own mobile sound equipment. It was
only much later that Frank set about building a state-of-theart recording facility, the Ridge Farm Studio. At the time, the idea of producing a rock album in the countryside was completely unique. The managers liked the concept because their bands could focus on getting the job done. “It was really a great location, a bit of traditional England and a complete contrast to their rock ‘n roll lives,” explains Frank, who continued touring with bands for another five years before focusing completely on the studio operation. “There was a lot of drinking and drugs. A lot of white powder with some of the bands getting pretty ripped. I would have died had I continued.” During the 25 years that Ridge Farm functioned as one of England’s leading music retreats, numerous renowned musicians and bands passed through, some to work, others simply to party or to jam. “It was fantastic to think that we jammed with people like Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Bad Company, or Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull,” says Billy, who plays the piano. “The bands could work however and whenever they liked,” Frank continues. “Sometimes you would turn up first thing in the morning and some of the band members would just be going to bed. Or, you’d have to go and wake them to drag them out of bed.” At the same time, he adds, “a lot of them were exceptionally serious musicians. They worked very intensely to create some incredibly epic, legendary music.” Oasis, the highly influential English band from Manchester known for its feuding, drugs and bad behavior came to Ridge Farm in 1996 in a bid to find some peace and quiet in order to complete their third album, ‘Be Here Now.’ “They were also very serious about their music, but constantly bickering. There was a lot of shouting and swearing,” says Frank, with Billy nodding. Mentioning band after band, or individual musicians whom they revered, the two of them recall the great or memorable moments of Ridge Farm of which there are clearly many. One of the most notable being the time when Sharon Aaron, Ozzy Osbourne’s then girlfriend and later wife, tossed his Rolex into the garden pond during one of their many arguments. “We had to come in with a metal detector. We looked really hard, but we never found it,” Frank says before pausing. “It could still be there.”
FROM THE FIELD
Pierre-Michel Virot Seeing the world by looking for it
For Swiss photographer Pierre-Michel Virot, Geneva probably ranks as one of the best launching pads to cover the world than anywhere else, particularly at a time when so many journalists are finding it increasingly difficult to embrace their passion – and to make a living. Based out of the Palais des Nations, the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Virot is not only able to travel the globe for various UN agencies and donor governments covering everything from HIV/AIDS to sustainable development, but also to focus on the sort of art photography – “working with light” as he puts it - that he loves.
FROM THE FIELD | Pierre-Michel Virot: Seeing the world by looking for it
OPPOSITE PAGE [TOP to BOTTOM] Syrian girl in Turkish refugee camp near Syrian border on Aleppo. Horn of Africa nomad. UNAIDS photographic assignment in Djibouti as part of Red Sea Initiative. THIS PAGE [CLOCKWISE] Women in Djibouti. A Namib dune gecko in Namibia, southwest Africa. Uzbek woman in front of the Imam Buxoriy monument complex in Samarkand along Central Asiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Silk Road. Street scene in Mexico. Portrait in India. (All Photos: Pierre-Michel Virot)
FROM THE FIELD | Pierre-Michel Virot: Seeing the world by looking for it
STOCKY, AND LOOKING SOMEWHAT LIKE A LARGE, Steiff instructor, maintains that his vision is to use high quality teddy bear, Pierre-Michel Virot speaks intently if not imagery as a means of engaging people, both young and old. slightly gruffly in English, as if to ensure that you have Much of this is directed specifically through educational understood precisely what he has just said. “It is not that initiatives, particularly in the developing world. Regularly my photography has changed,” he explains. “It’s just that I commissioned by the International Telecommunications am constantly developing new approaches.” This includes Union (ITU), another Geneva organization, Virot is fine art photographic prints, which have been exhibited particularly fascinated by its Broadband Commission both in Switzerland but also the Musée Riattu in Arles in for Sustainable Development. Together with UNESCO, southern France. this seeks to hook up the world via Internet, particularly “I still do subjects that I am commissioned to cover amongst neglected communities in Africa and elsewhere. in different parts of the world, like India or Nepal. But I am also working a lot with models and with light, such as making daylight look like night, or the other way round. It’s another way of looking at things,” he says. Virot, who was born in Geneva but has lived much of his life abroad, notably in the United States and Japan, probably stands out as someone who has done more photography on HIV/ AIDS than anyone else. This is because, as he explains, he has been repeatedly dispatched on assignment across the planet by the World Health Organization Photographer Pierre-Michel Virot: Constantly developing new approaches. and UNAIDS, both Geneva-based agencies. “So wherever I go, I am constantly As a photographer, Virot first started out with Le Matin, seeking ways of illustrating what it has done both to people a Swiss daily where he worked for four years. This was a and the world, plus also taking pictures for myself,” he great time, he recalls with a knowing grin. “It enabled me says. to meet all sorts of singers and rock stars.” He also worked Now living back in Geneva with his partner and on various long-term reporting projects, such as child two children, Virot continues to travel, but spends time trafficking, notably TF1, France’s leading commercial on various photo projects in Switzerland itself. Much TV network, and its prime programme, 52 sur la Une. of Virot’s work has been published in leading national His pictures featured for several years in the channel’s and international publications ranging from the New regular introtheme. He also has a permanent exhibition at York Times, Financial Times and Newsweek to Sports UNAIDS headquarters, plus has had exhibitions in Geneva, Illustrated, Entrevue and The Lancet. He has been involved Zug and Zurich of Nu Noir, a black and white collection of with various television features and specials as well as nude figures, as well as an exhibit in 2011 on transgender exhibitions highlighting HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, he has living. been published jointly with Brazilian Sebastião Salgado, a world-renowned social documentary photographer of workers and environmental themes. MARK HARTFORD is a New York-based freelance journalist and Virot, who is also a commercial helicopter pilot-cumwriter, who often reports out of Europe, Africa and Asia.