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Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Rieth Lectures 2007: Jeffrey Sachs

I've just been going through Arudou Debito's website, a website which raises issues that every foreigner in Japan has a duty to be aware of in my opinion - those relating to the racism that we experience every day living here as non-Japanese. Another thing I should have added to the end of my banana post when listing the things about Japan that make me sick.

The general 24/7 racism isn't all that difficult to deal with. You just come to accept it as a part of life. The staring, the hesitancy of people to interact with you, the constant reminders that you are not one of "Ware ware Nihonjin" ("We Japanese").

The fact that one clearly is an "outside country person" (the literal translation of the Japanese word for 'foreigner') does have its benefits: it gives funny old men in the gym a good excuse to point at you and say, "Amerikan?". I have 3 new friends there now. One of the pensioners I met yesterday lived in Birmingham for 6 years, news that took me by surprise! I decided to hold my tongue and not ask him how on earth he managed to survive such an ordeal.

This morning's encounter on the warm-up exercise mats was quite entertaining. The old fella beside me responded to my 'konnichiha' with the finger and "Amerikan?" routine, and then proceeded to ask me about what I was doing in Japan etc, all the usual stuff that I also ask foreigners I meet over here. I explained what I was up to, before mentioning the fact that I'm currently struggling with the kanji. Hhhmm, big mistake.

That was it, he was off. Clearly a frustrated teacher, desperate to impart his knowledge. We must have gone through all the kanji for the various body parts (as displayed on the exercise guide on the wall in front of us) at least 3 times.

This was ok though, I did actually learn a couple of things. However, what did upset me was seeing just how flexible he was. He could do things with his legs that a Chinese acrobat made of strawberry laces could only dream of. Pretty disturbing stuff.

He saved the best for last though, when he told me "You know how old I am? 71!"

Made me want to cry.

I've been reading up on training, and what one should be eating and drinking to maximise performance. I found what seems to be a pretty basic, independent, easy-to understand site called drugfreesport.com, with some recommendations for what to consume and when, and what the potential adverse effects are (I've also been having a look at some scientific research papers to find out whether the intake of sports drinks etc does actually have an effect - it does!) . I didn't know a thing about amino acids and all that until it was mentioned during the Trailwalker information evening. I knew I should be getting enough protein (which can be problematic for vegetarians / vegans), but didn't understand the link between protein and amino acids.

I've now come up with a great 2-litre cocktail to take to the gym: it has a base of a sports drink (containing the carbs, electrolytes and antioxidants), a does of protein powder, and a splodge of honey - delicious! It's all completely natural too, which is jolly good. In line with what I've read I drink a load just before I start training, then continue to drink at regular intervals throughout the session.

Once back from the gym I had to deal with a rather distressed phone call from my uni - I made a major bubu yesterday when submitting my registration form to the wrong department. I don't really see why this is such a big deal, but apparently it is. There was even a mention of "ichiman yen" (£45), but in a bid to get off the phone asap I didn't pursue the matter - I'll go and see them tomorrow.

Whilst at the gym this morning I listened to the first of this year's superb Reith Lectures, given by one of the world's foremost economists, Professor Jeffrey Sachs.

If you are the kind of person who cares about this planet and its people, you really must listen to this man. I subscribe whole-heartedly to his approach to dealing with the immense problems that we are facing. This first lecture was absolutely fascinating (so much so that I had to listen to it twice), and I am really looking forward to next week's, which is coming from Beijing.

What I found almost as interesting as the lecture itself, was the Q&A session at the end of the session. It demonstrated only too clearly just how pessimistic many people are. Seriously, if we don't believe we can find solutions, we won't!! If only there were more Jeffrey Sachs' in this world.

I have placed him very firmly on my list of role models.

Don't forget, if you would like to make a difference to the lives of those who are far, far poorer than you, please do help us raise £2000 for Oxfam. We only have a few weeks left to reach our target, and are only just over half-way there. Please, donate here. A mere $5 dollars can buy a mosquito net that will save the lives of those who sleep below it for up to five years. As Jeffrey Sachs points out, the more childs lives that are saved the more the fertility rate will drop, thus impacting upon many of the other problems we face.

Any amount would be very gratefully received. If you have already donated, THANK YOU so much for your generosity.

You can listen to this year's Reith lectures via the Radio 4 website, or you can download the first episode here. Best of all, you can subscribe to the series as a podcast: Basic RSS feed | Subscribe via iTunes

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, admire many of Jeffrey Sach's beliefs. I whole-heartedly agree that every person on this plant has an absolute right to clean water, food, housing, health care and education.

However, the correlation between amount of aid and rate of economic development is...slight, at best. Throwing money at a problem (especially one as complex as international poverty) is rarely the solution. For a scaled-down example, just look at the NHS - billions pumped into it over the last decade, without corresponding improvements. I’m NOT saying that we should not continue to give aid – we should, it rapidly alleviates the most pressing issues in areas of deprivation – but, we need to recognise it is, ultimately, a short-term solution. I believe (fair) trade, not aid is the answer, long-term.

Another major issue is skills-leakages from many of the world’s poorest countries. If you are lucky/talented enough to be educated and/or skilled in the developing world, you can bet that you won’t stay there long. You only have to look at the number of foreign nurses/doctors in the NHS, for an example. If the most economically-productive members of society are constantly leaving developing nations, it makes building a balanced and self-sustaining economy (and, thus, prosperity) very difficult. And that is a problem that aid alone cannot solve.

13/4/07 20:03  

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