Most people agree that societies should foster the happiness of their citizens. The U.S. Founding Fathers recognized the inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. British philosophers talked about the greatest good for the greatest number. Bhutan has famously adopted the goal of Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than Gross National Product. Even China champions a harmonious society. So, just how happy are we, and more generally speaking, how happy are the societies we live in? In an attempt to answer those questions, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) developed the World Happiness Report and on September 9th, the body released the second edition of this interesting look at the world we live in.
Today is Mandela Day. We wish a healthy and happy 95th birthday to Nelson Mandela and as he spends his 41st day in hospital in South Africa, hope for a quick recovery. But Mandala Day is more than simply celebrating the birthday of this great and inspirational man. The purpose is to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better, and in doing so build a global movement for good. You can learn more about what others are doing and what you can do to help achieve that worthwhile goal on the Mandela Day website.
Earlier this month, Transparency International, the anti-corruption and pro-transparency think tank based in Berlin, Germany released their 2013 Global Corruption Barometer. The comprehensive survey revealed that a startling 1 in 4 people had paid a bribe in the last 12 months and that over half of the people surveyed believed corruption had worsened. The good news is that people still believe they can make a difference when it comes to fighting corruption and are willing to take action to snuff it out.
While we always advise people to stay flexible when planning an overseas trip and not to rely too heavily on guidebooks, etc., it does pay to do your homework before heading out for multiple reasons. Apparently this past weekend, Jennifer Lopez failed to do just that when the pop singer flew with entourage in tow to Turkmenistan to serenade and sing happy birthday to Turkmen strongman Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. Little did the diva know that Turkmenistan doesn’t really have the best human rights record on the planet… in fact, it is one of the worst.
Last week was the 60th anniversary of the first successful summit attempt of Mt. Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and his sherpa Tenzing Norgay. A lot has changed in 60 years and Everest is still viewed by many as the pinnacle of mountain climbing. After all, it is still the tallest mountain in the world. However, according to some seasoned climbers and adventurers, in the 60 years since Hillary and Tenzing sat atop Everest’s summit, the mountain, and the process of climbing it, seem to have lost some of its romanticism. Long queues to ascend to the summit, a landscape littered with oxygen bottles and other climbing debris, fights between sherpas and climbers, the pressure of high dollar paying clients and more recently, a controversial proposal to set up a ladder bridging one of the more technical sections of the mountain, the Hillary Step, thus increasing the mountain’s accessibility to “idiots who don’t know a crampon from a tampon” have turned Everest into somewhat of a sideshow. According to our friends The Adventurists, “These days Sagarmāthā is a parade of lemmings blindly following each-other to the summit for the obligatory photo before shuffling back from whence they came… someone should tell the folks still climbing it that they needn’t bother.” We would tend to agree, but then along comes a crazy Russian who puts a completely new spin on Everest. If your goal is to climb Everest, only to then jump off it, we say go right ahead, that’s awesome.
Traveling always gives you an interesting insight into the culture of another country, but an additional benefit of traveling is the ability to reflect back on your own culture and to see it from a different perspective. The observance of holidays, and more specifically the importance placed on some celebrations by the community and society as a whole, is just one of the interesting comparisons you can make after having traveled abroad.
As everyone is certainly well aware, there was a bombing last week at the 117th running of the Boston Marathon. With no known terrorists organizations claiming immediate responsibility, an anxious public desperately searched for clues and eagerly waited for answers into the identity of the suspect(s). Wild speculation was the order of the day and pundits “in the know” even went as far as to incorrectly and absurdly spew theories about who did it, such as Fox News contributor and overall hack Erik Rush, who claimed “Muslims are evil. Let’s kill them all,” and that it was the Saudi’s who were to blame. A Saudi man was initially questioned by Boston Police but released shortly thereafter.
Upon a little tangent on the internet today, I discovered pretty much the coolest snake and also the wierdest viperkeeper on the planet. The snake is called Atheris hispida, and it lives in Central Africa. Since I am not a zoologist, scientist or snake expert, I will save you the time of reading a long post that is probably full of falsities anyway.
Just watch the ViperKeepers video below, he is a truly awesome snake loving nerd. A warning though, you may end up wasting a bunch of time watching him screw with seriously poisonous snakes.
These days there are countless names in the wingsuit flying world that are pushing the limits, getting arrested, getting hurt doing the wildest of flights. All of their stunts often get them some money or fame…maybe even some money. Without a doubt their antics get the insane stamp smacked right across their forehead. Read more
… are filled with bombs, bloodshed and radical fundamentalists? A scan of newspaper headlines related to Afghanistan usually yields something negative. Typing the word Afghanistan into the Google News search engine a few minutes ago, the first three results were: “Afghanistan attacks kill dozens of civilians,” “Afghanistan War: Can the US gains last?” and “Pentagon changing lingo for growing threat in Afghanistan.” Not surprisingly, the images that appear alongside these media stories also depict scenes of violence, suffering and destruction. As a result, mention the streets of Afghanistan to someone passing by and they are almost guaranteed to conjure up something bad in their minds. To be sure, Afghanistan has its problems, but finally, someone has uncovered something else about the streets of Afghanistan; the streets of Afghanistan are vibrant, filled with life and frequented by beautiful people.