Humans vs. Nature

A note from the editor

Dinyar Godrej

When Jamie James’ report of strife and murder over mummified caterpillars in a remote high-altitude region of Nepal reached our office, it exerted a curious, somewhat icky fascination. This was rhino horn and tiger penis territory, but here the irresistible lure of a natural aphrodisiac was ruining human lives rather than endangering animal ones.

It’s another variant of the youth- in-a-jar promise that we seem to be so good at falling for. Whereas the pharmaceutical industry has medicalized erections and turned the human penis into a blow-up device (while undoubtedly bringing relief to men with reluctant members), traditional medicine has always played up the symbolic values of potency – strength, virility, endurance. In short, it has gone for the jugular in terms of the values many men consider ‘masculine’, and inflated and distorted those notions to moneymaking advantage. It’s not just the male peacock that likes to strut.

It is to James’ credit that he sees beyond the way-out aspects of the story and enters the lives of those affected by the trade in yarsagumba with empathy and understanding. Which is what compelled us to publish it.

Another dangerous business is Lebanese writer Joumana Haddad’s publishing venture. She has received rape and death threats for the magazine she brings out which gives Arab contributors a unique forum for sexual expression. Prick hypocrisy and it goes on the warpath.

Last month’s newly introduced Argument section which debated the ethics of buying and selling human organs brought some thoughtful responses – we’ve printed a selection on page 37. This month we enter the thickets of public service cuts which our politicians are peddling as a necessary evil.

Our leading theme ‘Humans vs. Nature’ boils down to a simple question – can our self-obsessed species be stirred to safeguard the natural environment we live in? We’re sure you have a view.

Dinyar Godrej for the New Internationalist co-operative.
www.newint.org

The big story

John Giles / Press Association Images

Humans vs. Nature

Dinyar Godrej on the need for reconnection.

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We have reached a frozen moment in a heating world.

Our natural world is being increasingly denatured. There go the animals: extinctions are now up to a thousand times the natural background rate,1 and between 150 and 200 species become extinct every 24 hours.2 Watch out, plants: a fifth of your sort, up to 100,000 species, could also soon be extinct.3 Some 80,000 acres of rainforest vanish off the face of the earth – each day.4

The gyres o...




Features

Gunsa and fungal gold. These nomads from central Tibet sell the yarsagumba fungus, prized for its aphrodisiac properties, to Chinese traders in Lhasa.

Fungus to die for

A brutal murder in the high Himalayas is covered up by a whole village. Jamie James sets out on a quest for the precious aphrodisiac at the heart of the crime – and to meet the men responsible. Photographs by Thomas Kelly.

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A syrup-covered globe sends a message to the White House and BP.

That petrol emotion: BP's 'cleanup' of the Gulf of Mexico

Adam Ma’anit peers beyond the smoke and mirrors at BP’s ‘clean up’ of the Gulf of Mexico.

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Marina Grishina by the waters of the Small Aral Sea. The island of her childhood holidays is now a dustbowl.

A sea returns to life, a sea slowly dies

Paul Lauener’s stirring report from the Aral Sea, scene of both environmental miracle and disaster.

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Stopping the Juggernaut

Put environmental villains in the dock, says campaigner Polly Higgins.

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Readycash: everyone carries around cash in Burma as there are no ATMs and cards are only accepted by a few swank hotels.

A day in the life – with interest

As Burma’s people go to the polls this month in an election which is unlikely to change decades of military rule, Becky Palmstrom looks at how the urban poor survive in a country without working banks.

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Alternatives

Creative commons: a beautiful mural greets visitors to the eco-village.

Community occupies land near to Heathrow

In the shadow of the flight path, activists are transforming a wasteland into a vibrant eco-village.

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There’s a hole in my cabbage...

... but better imperfect vegetables than using pesticides, reckons Anna Weston.

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Household smoke, here from a traditional Indian chullha, ranks as the fourth biggest health risk in poor countries.

Cleaner cooking in India

A new stove that cuts down on fuel eases pressure on the environment.

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Blog

Volunteer nurse cries out for justice

Volunteer nurse cries out for justice

Many Filipino doctors and nurses have left the country in search for better jobs abroad, but those who stayed are fighting twin battles.  

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Perspectives from the frontline

Perspectives from the frontline

What are the three magic words that really matter? Four activists share their views.

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Opinion

There may be trouble ahead… President Obama in pensive mood.

We need to bust the pendulum, not see how it swings!

Our new columnist Mark Engler considers the impact of the US midterm elections.

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Are public service cuts justified?

Banker Dan Mobley goes head to head with tax justice campaigner John Christensen.

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Regulars

The Third World

Big Bad World cartoon by Polyp.

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Osmani Simanca

Open Window - In collaboration with the
VJ Movement – an international network of video journalists and cartoonists – this slot will feature a different cartoonist from around the world each month.

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Kondh tribal women listen to a speech by Congress Party leader Rahul Gandhi on the day the government said no to Vedanta.

Vedanta undermined!

Victory for the hill tribes of India in a David and Goliath battle.

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Cognac and horse sweat

In the name of research, Maria Golia meets a man with an unusual mission.

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Why are we dancing round reality?

Why are we dancing round reality?

If the Age of Enlightenment was about proving certainties, we’re entering the time of unravelment, when everything falls apart.

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Margaret Atwood

The legendary Canadian author talks to Rowenna Davis about activism, women and breaking the male stronghold over ‘serious’ literature.

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Southern Exposure - Daniel Patiño Flor

Highlighting the work of artists and photographers from the Majority World

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