Monday, December 9, 2013

YOUR Topics

Hi All,

Please share your thoughts about any other topic of your choice here!

Happy Holidays and All the Best for 2014!



  1. A large part of food sovereignty is the right of a group to define their own food system and the Aboriginal communities are faced with barriers that challenge this. In recent years, the ownership and use of land have been a challenge for their food sovereignty and it’s increasingly being shaped by those who have economic upper hand to control production & distribution of foods. An example of decreasing access to their land is the recent controversial Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project, which will trek across the interior of Alberta to BC. This is a controversial project because of its possible environmental impacts and it traverses many Aboriginal reserves and settlements. Enbridge has offered a percentage of shares to communities that consent to the pipeline and a portion of them have already signed on, but none have that are directly in the middle of the pipeline rout. This project could significantly contribute to further endangerment of many at risk animals through habitat loss, and one example is the woodland caribou in which many indigenous communities still incorporate into their diet.

    As the climates around the world because more extreme, the temperature in the north is seeing the change most evidently. Warmer temperatures means that sea-ice access routes to hunting areas are not secure and may decrease the hunting availability during the winter. Some communities could be more susceptible than others in this barrier. Heavier dependence on a single resource can increase their vulnerability to food insecurity especially if the species is more sensitive to climate change. Without a consistent access to hunted foods, traditional foods & gardens, market foods are forced to become important food intake

    On many reserves – especially in the Northern Territories, the access & availability is limited by high cost of foods. With a higher cost of living, there is less access to food for the same amount of money elsewhere in Canada. In some areas, 2L of milk can cost as much as $8. Imagine paying for so much when a community is presented with other challenges such as poor condition of housing. Most Aboriginal peoples are at a financial disadvantage - In 2006, the median income for Aboriginal peoples was 30% lower than the Canada’s median income. There have been social assistances such as the National Child Benefit which was established to provide help with children living in low income families. However, the amount of assistance a family can received have been reduced in many provinces. To lower the risks of Aboriginal families for food insecurity, initiatives such as restoring or increasing the subsidies can improve their economic conditions for access to marketed foods.

    1. Very important issues, Jenny! Thanks for sharing!

  2. What is External Debt?

    When countries borrow money from foreign (such as European, North American, or Japanese) creditors, it results in a collection of what we call “external debt.” This is accumulated by the debt of citizens, businesses, and government agencies. There is an interest on this money borrowed, and it must be paid in the currency of the loan. The country that is borrowing money may have to export its goods to the lender’s country to earn that currency. Some nations with a weak economy may encounter a problem with being unable to repay their debt and can only repay their debt by increasing the social and environmental costs at an unacceptably high rate. Having a weak economy often leads to a failing currency value, making their exchange rate quite unfavourable. This results in the infamous “debt crisis” that we hear on the news.

    With the concern of the rising external debt in some regions of the world, some nations may have to declare bankruptcy. Possessing a large external debt for some nations may be a contributing factor to the economic crisis that began to emerge in the early 2000’s. Numerous European nations are responsible for the defaults in debt. For example, Greece entered into the eurozone in 2001 with hopes and expectations of transforming the country’s economic future. A drastic shift had occurred in 2009 and Greece had in turn became the focus of a major financial crisis. They will address their issue by negotiating their debt due to the fact they are unable to repay their debt under the established terms.

    External debt elicits a problematic and burdened country for future generations, a bad reputation on their national debt ratings that may make them less favourable to nations that are lending money, and shows great instability of their national consumption. Governments closely monitor and track their external debt with the aid of government agencies. Being knowledgeable about a countries external debt is crucial for making decisions about being involved in economic activities such as lending, trade agreements, and debt forgiveness programs.

    1. Very important points, Nicole! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I want to take this opportunity to talk about mental health illnesses. In class, Rosaline did her perfect world project on people treating mental health illness more like true illnesses. I couldn't agree with her more. I will never understand why such problems are disregarded. They are extremely serious problems that impact lives powerfully and tragically.

    Before I delve further into this topic, however, I want to talk about where mental illnesses effect people. When I say where, I mean where around the world. It's funny, you would think that a lot of the people who live in third world countries with very poor living conditions would have the highest rates of depression, but this isn't true. Depression is actually most common North America among other first world areas.

    This fact is interesting, but not surprising. Depression is commonly caused by non-physical or health problems. It is caused by life situations. Death, loss, heartbreak, anxiety, and so many other things. Although most can deal with it pretty well, and in a lot of cases, nobody could possibly ever guess that the person has it, but for others, it's an incredibly tough situation to be in. The feeling of helplessness and hopelessness and worthlessness is overwhelming. The problem is that depression isn't focused on enough. Strong enough treatments often cannot be given in time and before we know it, the person feels too worthless to even live.

    Why? Why do we as a society let this happen? We often condone those who have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide or even those who are successful. We say, it couldn't have been so bad that they wanted to stop living. What isn't realized is that the person cannot control it. They can't control their thoughts or how they feel.

    Depression alongside other mental health illnesses aren't taken seriously enough. I have seen first hand how they effect people's lives. I have seen the happiest man in the world just change in the blink of an eye because of one event. If we want to move forward together to a happier and all around better world, we need to start by focusing on these so called "little" things.

    1. Excellent points, Jasleen! What you say is definitely worth some further thoughts and discussions.
      I would like to draw your attention in this context to two other things in this context:
      1) many physical diseases also originate in the mind -> all traditional and holistic medical systems know that and take it into consideration but western medicine ignores this; there might be some correlation between the treatment methods people use in North America and other "developed" countries and the ineffectiveness of the cures for mental illness and many other problems
      2) Western countries focus more on competition as well as on the idea of independence/ separation of individuals from the rest of the world while many non-industrialized countries still see and value the interconnectedness of all life.

  4. Hi,
    I really enjoyed this class. I thought and learnt about a lot of things I wouldn't have otherwise. It was great that you let us use our creativity and challenged us to share our ideas. It would be great if we could have more classes like this in the future. Thank you!

    1. Thank you very much for the positive feedback, Wiebke! I am glad you enjoyed the class and learnt something. I very much enjoyed your contributions! Keep using your creativity and keep sharing your ideas in other contexts as well!

  5. It is exam season and everyone is in the library studying for their final exams. I just want to take this opportunity to talk about some of the things I feel the education system can improve on.
    For university courses, grades are mainly decided by two tests: midterm and final. The midterm is usually worth 20-30% while the 2.5 hour final is worth 50-60% of the course mark. This really puts a lot of stress on students during these two times. Why do we emphasize so much on two exams. I believe learning is a slow process; students should be evaluated by their study habits and efficiency. After all, the majority of the information taught in class will not be used again in the student's adult life. The purpose of university should be to prepare students for jobs in the future. Evaluation of students should be based on average work progress instead of major exams. I believe evaluation should also be continuous since learning is continuous.
    Furthermore, the current method of midterm/final exam evaluation of students puts too much stress on students, both physically and mentally. Chronic stress can lead to depression and even brain damage. What is the harm of spreading out the course marks more evenly throughout a semester?
    Furthermore, I think universities should promote teamwork rather than individual work. The newer Nobel Price winners in sciences are all teams composed of intelligent individuals. A person must be able to work well in groups so they can have maximum efficiency when working together.
    Lastly, I think exams should not be based on details. We live in a society where technology has made it very easy to look for any details online. A person only needs to know how correctly access the solution, not knowing every detail about it. For example, a person with knowledge of how a disease works is more suited to treat a patient than someone who has memorized a list of diseases and their corresponding treatments. What I am trying to say is that we should focus on learning the trend and how thing work, not the names of every bone in the skull, which can actually be very easy to access on the internet.

    1. I totally agree with you, Winnie - which is one of the many reasons why I am planning to start an alternative university in the (hopefully relatively near) future….

  6. HI Yu Tong Kong,
    Since you are talking at bout our education system, I also want to share my idea about it.
    I agree with your first idea that the midterm and final is worth too much in the total grade. The assignment every week and participation should weigh more to ensure student’s consistent study. Since the final worth most of the grade, many students may only care about the final and pay no attention to the class and homeworks. One of my friend didn’t go to most of the class, and only spent 2 days studying before finals and got a good mark. I think many students don’t study hard every week and try to learn everything before final. This worth nothing since though the short memory can help them get a good mark, they will forget it soon and cannot have a good command of knowledge.

    I agree that teamwork is great, but I think university has already promoted team work. I have team at most of class this term. We do the presentations and projects together, having group meetings every week. However I think that university should give us a guide about how can a team work efficiently. I have already have 3 group for different class, and there are total different kinds of group. One is very active, we meet every week and do all work together. In another group, most group member loves individual work and hard to make a decision since everyone have different opinions.

    I also think that university should encourage student to keep in touch with the society in class. Take my business course as example, students can be encourage to do an interview to a business, not only getting the knowledge of how the business run but also knowing how to apply the knowledge to the reality.

    It’s the time for Final. I think that we should receive the final paper and get the answer, so we can know actually how we did in the final and why we made these mistakes. I haven’t seen my final paper when we enter the university, but I think the purpose of the exam is to let us know our weakness. So I think getting the feedback of final is also important.