Defining our paradise

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The aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Picture credit: http://www.onthecommons.org

It’s the weekend, and I am up the coast of Vietnam, on An Bang beach, enjoying ocean scenes, blue skies and the lazy movement of palm.

A paradise of sorts.

I brought with me Rebecca Solnit’s A Paradise Built in Hell – a fantastic read: with its insightful and brilliantly constructed chapters, many of which seek to dispel long held preconceptions about what ‘makes us all tick’. And, in particular, how people cope with, are affected by, and grow from the impact of natural and man-made disasters.

I’ll want to quote some of Solnit’s beautiful prose at the end of this blog – for the posterity of one day re-reading this – and I am sure to post again about many of the perspectives her narrative offers up: indeed, my own organization, CARE International, like many of our peers, is heavily invested in learning from our experiences of intervening before, during and after crises.

For now, poolside, and warming my feet on the scorched tiles, this is merely a momentary toe in the water of something I am sure will consume me time and again.

Solnit makes a variety of thought provoking points in her novel.

Some of the most compelling centre around our own philosophizing about what we want to get out of life, how we want to live it, and who we want to live it with?      Continue reading “Defining our paradise”

Tacloban: Exposing “middle-income” country realities

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CARE’s shelter team with local communities in rural Tacloban

I am on my way home from a visit to Tacloban, in the Philippines, one of the country’s most damaged districts following the carnage caused after Typhoon Yolanda swept through some of the nation’s poorest communities last November.

The Philippines has been classified by the World Bank as a “lower-middle income” economy. Middle-income economies are those with an annual GNI (gross national income) per capita of more than $1,045 but less than $12,74.

Other countries in Asia Pacific who share this classification with the Philippines include Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. “Upper-middle income” economies nearby can be found in China, Malaysia and Thailand, whilst the likes of Cambodia and Myanmar are “low income” status.

Meaning that, on the surface of things, the Philippines’ economic gains in recent years, and its growing numbers of new middle-class citizens, represent an optimistic narrative. Its capital city, Manila, stands as a beacon of commercial potential to the private sector, host to a recent World Economic Forum summit, home to some of the world’s most famous, and infamous, global retail brands. Busy, built up, urban Asia. Opportunistic, dynamic but, in fact, wholly deceiving.

Turn this promotional pamphlet over and what lies beneath is, at best, a flimsy and precarious reality… Continue reading “Tacloban: Exposing “middle-income” country realities”