Showing posts from June, 2011

The WWF and the industry-What role for environmental organisations in the age of multinationals and biofuels?

On Wednesday the German public broadcaster ARD showed the  documentary 'The pact with the Panda-What the WWF is not telling us' on the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) and its close links to international companies, especially in the areas of biofuels (soy beans and palm oil). The documentary focused on Indonesia and Argentina, but there was also a critical case study from India about tiger conservation efforts and eco-tourism. The documentary is in German, of course, and there are no subtitles. There have been heated discussions on both the German and Swiss WWF websites - again, in German. More than 600 comments are quite unusual for the German Internet-sphere and it really shows that the documentary hit a nerve. This has the potential of a German/European version of the 'Three Cups for Tea' story. I can't really provide a detailed summary here, but there are a couple of interesting points with reference to the WWF, but more importantly the rather depressin

Who is 'the development industry'?

The short answer: Most of the time 'we' are the development industry - not just 'them' (those with Landcruisers and daily allowances)... Mina, a volunteer with Engineers Without Borders in Ghana shared some interesting reflections on how he perceives ' the industry ' in the country. And he posted a few pictures to prove it: Fancy cars, fancy offices, fancy daily allowances – an often shared impression of how people (including local NGOs with cars, offices and allowances) perceive one of the key ills of development: It has become an 'industry', a market-place for transnational professional, knowledge and their 'wares' from dubious consultancy reports to endless workshops. But I also think that this analysis is short-sighted and ignores some of the essential global dynamics behind said industry. I usually don't turn my posts into heavily academic contemplations, but please allow me two short quotes to illustrate my point theoretically. Fir

Academic socialisation, publishing and Tyler Cowen

Tyler Cowen shared some basic rules for academic publishing in a video two weeks ago. I was a bit disappointed, because it appears that he took a very conservative stance on the subject, not mentioning the 'political economy' of publishing that is often part of the process. He seems to follow a purely scientific model where a high-class paper will be reviewed by high-class reviewers leading to high-class feedback and in the end to a high-class publication on your CV. This is not going to be a rant suggesting that there are secret networks of power and mafia-like structures when is comes to getting into the publishing circles, but my experience so far is that in addition to good, high-quality research you need the right amount of luck, take advantage of unexpected opportunities and be prepared to learn that publishing does not take place in an unbiased, purely scientific bubble where only 'the best' research is going to be published. Cowen's talk reminded me a bit o

Is development a city, a corporation or something completely different?

The headline may sound a bit strange, but after Ran Prieur’s reflections on a longer conversation and essay by Geoffrey West it turns out to be a legitimate question after all. I came across Ran’s summary first before reading Geoffrey’s essay: West is a physicist who tried to find universal laws for biology, and he discovered that a bunch of things scale exponentially with size, and the exponent is less than one, which means as an organism gets bigger, certain things get smaller in ways that you can mathematically predict. [...] Then he started looking at human social systems, and he discovered that cities scale with an exponent greater than one, which means a city of a million people will have more production and innovation than ten cities of a hundred thousand. Also it will have more crime and disease, and people will walk faster! [...] Then West looks at corporations, and finds that they operate like individual organisms, not like cities. So a billion dollar company will have low