Friday, March 16, 2012

Korean tradition challenged as mixed marriages soar

By Phil Barnes
Copy edited and produced by Laura Straub

Every morning, after boarding Seoul’s bustling subway on her way to work, Lara Tosh casually waited for a stranger to ask the question. She never had to wait long. 

“Uh, excuse me Miss, are you a Russian prostitute?”

Thirteen years later, Tosh (who is actually Canadian-born) laughs at the old routine. “The question” isn’t asked much anymore – Tosh is now in her 40s and thinks that old age may have something to do with it. But she is quick to point out another, more prevalent reason: South Korea’s homogeneous culture is quickly becoming more colored.

Increasing diversity in South Korea

According to the Korean National Statistics Office, foreigners living in South Korea totaled 390,000 in 1997 -- two years before Tosh’s arrival. In 2009, there were over 1 million expatriates in the country (120,000 from the United States). 

Year after year, the number keeps climbing.

Dr. Jinseng Park recently opened the doors of his Seoul-based psychotherapy clinic to foreigners in order to compensate for their rapid population growth. 

“Korean society has been the same for 5000 years,” he says. “Many of us aren’t used to seeing any color. When I visited the U.S., I was confused because there were so many people of different ethnicities. But it’s certainly changing here.”

And with diversity comes acceptance…slowly but surely. 

Increasing multicultural families

Multi cultural couple Yvon Malenfant and his wife Jae-Sook
Over the last five years, Dr. Park has been seeing more and more multicultural couples in his clinic. Expatriates, whether from China, Vietnam, Canada, or the U.S., are becoming part of the family, and a once strict adherence to "minjok" (pure blood lineage) is losing its grip. 

There were 35,098 marriages between foreigners and Koreans in 2010, a sharp increase from a mere 12,300 reported ten years prior. 

Six years ago, Lara Tosh married Y.B. Ahn (a Korean man). He is from a conservative family, and initially, Tosh’s relations with his parents were shaky to say the least.

“When I met with my future husband’s in laws, there was 20 minutes of non-stop screaming and crying,” Tosh says. “At first they didn’t want their son, especially their eldest, to marry me…a foreigner.”

Tosh’s relationship with her in laws has improved drastically over time, (she describes her connection with Ahn’s mother as “totally awesome”) but Korean culture still shocks her occasionally. Ahn’s age gives him priority due to his family’s traditional, hierarchical structure, and Tosh often finds herself baffled over resulting responsibilities. 

“I actually had to name my newborn nephew,” she says. “It was very strange -- but its stuff like this that makes it fun and interesting to be married to a man of another culture. I definitely see more couples like me now, too. It’s on the rise.”

Yvon Malenfant, a private inter-faith pastoral counselor, is another foreigner who found love in Korea. He has been married to his wife, Jae-Sook, for 13 years. 

“My wife and I were both 36 when we decided to get engaged. Her parents thought she would grow into an old maid and were just happy she found somebody.” 

When they first married, Jae-sook was called a “Yankee wife” by her neighbors. But not so much anymore. 

Diminishing Discrimination
“Foreigners are more tolerated now than ever before,” says Dr. Park. “Parents are accepting them into their family and culture. It’s all about awareness. Once the shock factor fades away, so does discrimination.”

With the bulk of expatriates hailing from China, Park notes that prejudice still exists throughout Korea, but it varies depending on a foreigner’s background. 

“Women or men that come here from other Asian countries are considered by many to be poor and stupid, based on the economical status of their country compared to Korea,” he says. “We consider Americans and westerners to be intelligent based on the success of their countries, but there is still a bit of uneasiness towards them, because they don’t look the same.”

“But this is changing.”

Men living in rural areas of South Korea often marry “mail order brides” from Vietnam, Cambodia, or China because native women tend to gravitate toward wealthier, urban areas. In bigger cities, such as Seoul and Gyeonggi-do, westerner / Korean couples are much more prominent. 

But as multicultural couples have kids in both urban and rural sectors, a new crisis is emerging.

Bullying aimed at the multicultural community

“Bullying and racism in schools are already big problems,” says Malenfant. “And they are bound to increase drastically as more foreigner / Korean couples give birth to children of mixed ethnicity.”

Andrew Eungi Kim, a professor and intercultural specialist at Korea University, predicts that bi-ethnic/bi-racial enrollment will rise to 16 percent in 2018 and to more than 870,000 (26 percent) in 2050. If this proves to be the case, Koreans’ progression of accepting other ethnicities will be put into overdrive.

A new social order
Dr. Park knows that the social order is transforming – that more cultures are becoming accepted. But, Korean society may be changing too fast. Tradition is tough to break. It takes awhile...years, even decades. 

While holding hands with her husband in public, Lara Tosh’s eyes still meet the suspicious gaze of older Koreans. She doesn’t let it affect her though. In fact, she implements her own family rules at home, many of which differ from the traditional Korean hierarchy.

“Even though my husband is twenty days older than me, I’m still the boss of the house. What I say goes.”

Tosh may very well be a contributor to a South Korean cultural renaissance in the near future, but it won’t come easy. Change never comes easy.

Irish hospitals, where overcrowding kills

By Emily Bowman
Copy edited and produced by Laura Straub

Ireland is full of luscious landscapes, folk music and friendly citizens. Many citizens say the island is a safe and welcoming community to live and prosper… until you are faced with a medical emergency.

Gary Gomringer wasn’t aware of the overcrowded and disease-stricken conditions in local hospitals -- until he needed medical care.

Last June, Gomringer arrived at the Letterkenny General Hospital, in Northern Ireland, where he had an angiogram to evaluate the condition of his heart arteries. It wasn’t until after the procedure however, that he noticed a rapid decline in his situation.

“I was taken into the recovery room and told that in one or two hours I would be ready for release,” Gomringer said.

Instead, Gomringer watched in horror as his already occupied room filled with more and more patients, flooding into the hallway, some not even able to receive a bed.
Hospital beds flooding into the hallway of  an Irish
hospital.  Photo courtesy of Irish Echo.

“I heard a nurse say they were short of beds for the patients,” Gomringer said.

Gomringer waited patiently until he was assisted by a nurse and released from the hospital, about 10 hours behind schedule. Although his procedure was not critical or life-threatening, medical officials say their biggest concern is for others who need more serious treatment.

“The biggest problem exists in the 15 largest hospitals in the country all of whom have Accident and Emergency Departments,” said Dave Hughes, Deputy General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.
Why are hospitals so crowded?
Ireland has battled hospital overcrowding since the late 1990s. It came to a crisis level in 2002 because of the extreme congestion in A&E departments, the Irish term for Emergency Room.

“These hospitals experience a problem because they are open 24 hours a day and are obligated to accept all presenting accidents and acute medical emergency needs of patients,” Hughes said.

Patients seeking acute care are rushed to the hospital at all hours of the day, but care is not readily available to those who need it most.

“Many nurses report leaving the workplace frustrated at the end of a shift because they have not been able to provide the quality of care to their patients that they aspire to,” Hughes said.

According to Hughes, one of the biggest issues that contributes to hospital overpopulation is the lack of beds. Because of Ireland’s increasing population, the demand for beds is significantly higher but the bed capacity has been reduced.

“Large hospitals operate almost constantly on the basis of a 100% bed occupancy which inevitably means there are no beds available or there are insufficient beds available for admitted patients on a given day,” Hughes said. “There is a competition for beds between elective admissions and emergency presentations.”

The sickest patients are often transferred to the wrong ward because it may offer the only bed available. On many occasions, there are no supplementary nurses on staff to help with the additional patients, Hughes said.
Consequences of overcrowding
The President of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, Fergal Hickey, reported last summer that there are often as many as 350 deaths in Irish hospitals each year as a result of emergency unit overcrowding.

The issue has become so extreme in many hospitals, that A&E patients are being forced to lie on trolleys that line the hallways of emergency wards.

“The Irish Nurses and Midwife Organisation identified, in mid 2011, that the number (of patients) on trolleys were at record levels and are a daily reality in some hospitals that have previously avoided this indignity to patients,” Liam Doran, General Secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, said in a press release.

About 500 patients around the country are waiting on trolleys at a given time, Ireland’s main television network RTE reported.

“In two of the major hospitals (trolleys) have become the norm and there is no significant decrease in the number of trolleys waiting in their emergency departments,” Hughes said.

For over a decade, Ireland has battled its way through the lack of acute care.

Although steps are being taken to help decrease the overpopulation, including increasing the rate of discharging patients, an end is not yet in sight.

“The problem remains as bad today as it was ten years ago,” Hughes said. “The impact of overcrowding is one of demoralisation.”

Battling bullets with blackboards, Pakistan’s tribal youth struggle against extremism

By Sagar Atre
Copy edited and produced by Laura Straub

Jan Muhammad was born in the tribal province of Balochistan, a region devastated by decades of war, unemployment and extremism. But at 22, Jan Muhammad is a speaker at global youth forums for peace. Jan was part of a training workshop organized by the College of Youth Action and Development (CYAAD) to prevent youth from joining extremist groups.

CYAAD founder Raziq Fahim speaks to women in a village.

Lack of education
“The problem is the extreme lack of educational facilities and opportunities to earn a decent living,” said Muhammad. We have no real avenues for professional jobs. Extremist groups provide an income, and with no other option, youngsters often turn to violence. We have had violence here for decades now. Exploiting such sensitive situations is simple. I am lucky to have had the option of choosing a different path. Most of my friends don’t, and I want to change that.”

From the last few decades, residents of Balochistan, the federally administered tribal areas (FATA) and Khyber-Pakhtunkhuwa, all bordering Pakistan’s northern fringe, have seen conflicts in quick succession; the Soviet invasion, Islamic insurrections, tribal conflicts, and now, American drone strikes. Conflicts have destroyed basic infrastructure, farms and also factories and other workplaces.

The borders with Afghanistan are porous and the conflict there has a severe impact in these regions. Most people sustain themselves through small-time farming and odd jobs but shortages of water, food and opportunities to better oneself make these provinces a harsh place to live. Many generations of villagers are embittered, and become easy prey for religious indoctrination, and in turn, violent extremism. CYAAD aims to work against this problem.

Dissuading youth from extremism
Jan Muhammad conducts a workshop for tribal youth.
Raziq Fahim, founder of CYAAD, says, “These youth are alienated. They do not have opportunities or the economic and intellectual resources to create opportunities. This vacuum is exploited by extremists, who promise money and martyrdom. Youth here see loved ones die violently and have forever lived in poverty. We try to mitigate the bitterness arising out of this. We work to turn them away from violence and involve them in community building.” CYAAD runs training programs where youth learn about civic rights, community building, conflict resolution and peace. Six hundred youth have attended these workshops so far, and many have found work in the development sector.

Dr Muhammad Taqi, a columnist on Pakistan based in Florida, says, “Persuading a religiously indoctrinated, poor and angry young man towards extremism, which gets him a monthly salary is not difficult. Disillusionment with the government and anger towards the western world, combined with economic problems and helplessness are a perfect mix of what extremists are looking for. Right now, they are helped mainly by the voluntary organizations working there.”

The government is accused of ignoring the problem and failing to act. Officials at the education and social welfare ministries were not reachable for comment.

Computer training for tribal youth.
Sadiq Khan, senior faculty member at the Institute of Development studies and practices, (IDSP), is a trainer for IDSP workshops. Sadiq believes, “Our aim is to pull these youth back from religious fundamentalism. Our programs focus on giving youth a basic sense of some important areas: religion, local politics and the individual’s role in developing the community. We also work with women in communities; women are better anchors to a family. However, physical violence and hardships are stronger reminders of reality than our modules. Their devastated infrastructure and economic poverty must go for our trainings to become more effective. We can help them by equipping them with skills and knowledge, but the responsibility of providing them opportunities of earning and working must come from other agencies.”

Extremism begins young
Extremist recruitment begins from a very young age. Boys aged nine have been recruited by the Taliban and they have fought in tribal skirmishes alongside the Balochistan Liberation Army, a secessionist organization demanding a separate Balochistan. Dilawar Khan, a CYAAD fellow and faculty, says, “I was automatically a possible recruit when I lived in a rural region called Pishin. I knew who they were and how they recruited my compatriots. But my parents instilled in me a strong dislike of violence. Many of my friends were embittered by their losses. If anything, youth in those regions need to be cared for. We talk to them as friends. Showing them a different, more optimistic and peaceful side of life changes them and makes them more hopeful about the future. These youth need not be told the value of peace; they know it better than anyone.”
A peace rally for tribal areas.

The Baacha Khan Trust Education Foundation (BKTEF) is an organization which has established schools and developed curricula which mix academic learning with teaching various skills. Dr Khadim Hussain, Managing Director of the BKTEF, says, “We work simultaneously on school and college levels. Our school curricula focus on cultural skills, critical thinking, analytical skills, and other facets of education which enable the child to learn better. We also try to inculcate courses which emphasize peace and a better, more detached understanding of religion. For youth, we conduct dialogues and workshops. Talking to them about religion and its role in life and society is critical. We are working with the government to realize the need of economic investment and aid to these regions, and by doing so create a sustainable model which will empower the coming generations of the tribal areas not just psychologically, but also economically and professionally. We want tribal areas without poverty and violence. Their reputation as fertile recruitment grounds of extremism must end.”

Jan, Dilawar, and many other youth in the tribal areas now work with development agencies to help their compatriots build a better future. Youth are involved in rebuilding homes, running schools, improving the basic facilities in the tribal areas, and even involving more youth into these activities. Foreign agencies like UN Habitat are slowly adding more youth to their local cadre.

When last contacted, Jan was on his way to Egypt, to talk to youth there about resolving conflict. Change in the tribal areas is slowly coming, but violence, extremism and their aftereffects are a continual threat looming over these efforts of rebuilding Pakistan’s most desperate, barren lands and the morale of their people.

Kidney disease research in El Salvador finding a place in rural Ohio

By Joseph Barbaree
Copy edited and produced Laura Straub

A sickeningly sweet industry might be one cause of Central America’s widespread kidney disease epidemic. And researchers at one unlikely institution could soon prove it.

News broke in the past year of kidney disease affecting communities in El Salvador and Nicaragua among others in Central America. A total of some 24,000 deaths were recorded beginning in the year 2000.

Researchers are now trying to spur government action to prevent further deaths after a plea for help from El Salvador’s Minister of Health.

Included in the efforts to solve the mystery are researchers from a small community in rural Ohio.
Dr. Dina Lopez, professor of geology at Ohio University in Athens, is a native Salvadoran living in the United States. Her research focuses on multiple environmental problems, including acid mine drainage in El Salvador.

Dr. Diana Lopez, courtesy of the Ohio University
Department of Geology.

Investigating the soil composition
Lopez is now leading an international investigation of soil conditions in El Salvador to determine the present levels of chemical pesticides in communities most widely affected by kidney disease and failure. There’s speculation that the sugar cane industry is a primary factor.

Collaborating with Lopez is Dr. Carlos Orantes, a clinical health physician in El Salvador. Orantes studied the rural agricultural region of Baja Lempa and found that one in four men had kidney disease. Most of these men were not diabetic, a common symptom of the disease.

After interviewing 775 members of the community, Orantes found that more than 40% reported exposure to a number of chemical herbicides and pesticides.

Paraquat, glyphosate and hedonal were most widely reported and led Orantes to his belief that prolonged exposure to these causes the health problems among workers. Each chemical is reported to have some detrimental effect.

“These chemicals are banned in the United States, Europe and Canada, and they’re used here, without any protection, and in large amounts that are very concerning,” said Orantes.
Spurred by the work of Orantes, Lopez began collecting soil samples from the regions affected by kidney failure in mid-2011.

Sugar cane and kidney failure
Helping Lopez at Ohio University is student researcher Darcy VanDervort. They traveled to El Salvador in August and collected soil samples, which they are analyzing for chemical presence.
VanDervort runs statistical analyses and maps data in order to compare regions of sugar cane production with areas of concentrated kidney failure.
Traditionally, sugar cane fields are burned after the
harvest to kill off any insects or eggs
in the field.  Photo courtesy of Erika Blumenfeld

“My maps are showing that the areas are overlapping – a lot,” said VanDervort.
She is finding that the most concentrated areas of kidney disease are in the coastal regions of the country and at the border between La Libertad and La Paz. Northwest of San Salvador is also highly concentrated.

As many as 65 per 1,000 inhabitants are affected by kidney disease in these regions.
Once Lopez and VanDervort conclude the statistical mapping and soil analysis, they will send a report to the Ministry of Health in El Salvador.

But they can’t yet conclude decisively that the use of pesticides in the sugar cane industry is solely to blame. “We think it’s multi-factorial,” said VanDervort. Presence of heavy metals and difficult working conditions may be part of the cause.

The results of preliminary research, such as that conducted by Orantes in his study of Baja Lempa, have led only a handful of environmental groups to speak out against the practices of the agricultural industry. Among those in El Salvador is the Mangrove Association, organized by EcoViva, which coordinates several community-led grassroots initiatives for environmental change.

Even when more substantial evidence is produced, regulatory change may still be years away for El Salvador.

How this affects America
This means the continued export of sugar products to the United States from countries that use possibly harmful herbicides and pesticides. The United States in 2011 imported some 330,000 metric tons of sugar from Central America, constituting roughly 23% of total sugar imports.
For now, the fate of laborers in El Salvador is a waiting game until action is taken either by the Salvadoran government to regulate the use of chemicals or sugar producers begin regulating their products through third party certification.

Until then, Lopez and VanDervort will continue to explore the causes of Central America’s deadly epidemic, one whose roots remain elusive.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Telangana continues to attempt its secession

By Amber Skorpenske
Edited and produced by Taylor Pool

Telangana, a region in India under the influence of the Andhra Political Lobby, continues to feel deprived even in this present day.

Photo from
After the state of Andhra was pushed to merge with Telangana for its surplus wealth, the marriage yielded many deprivations for the population of Telangana including political, economic and even cultural (many people in Telangana speak Telegu). But even though this movement to join these states happened over 50 years ago, today there still continues to be movements, protests and even suicides against this merger.

It is important to remember that it is not the people of Andhra that are against a Telangana state. It is the “very few” elite Andhra politicians and businessmen who are against it. They are holding this merger because of their vested interest in “real estate” in the capital city of Hyderabad.

Groups in India work toward peace

Many groups exist throughout the region that attempt to educate others about the Telangana movement and to ask for a non-violent movement. One of these is the Telangana Development Forum, a not-for-profit organization that spongers seminars and community events to bring people together to discuss problems faced by Telangana people. Vai Jalajam, a member of this organization says, his struggle began with his grandfather being persecuted after the merger of the states because his inability to speak Urdu.

Jalajam says, “My grandfather was a very successful businessman. After the merger he was left with nothing. He was a college grad and he still had no employment. My uncles, the second generation, had no access to higher education and employment.”

It is very important to Vai Jalajam to help in the cause and to have Telangana secede, as it’s own state. He says, “It is most important that we are no longer colonized by some elite Andhra capitol and power lobbyists.”

While groups and non-profits that fight for this cause state this is a non-violent movement, reports from citizens who live in areas like Hyderabad are different.

Leigha Garcia-George, an American who recently moved to Hyderabad says, “When I go to work in the morning there have been several times I have seen buses on fire, protests in the streets and even suicides from university students. It seems like a normal way of life around here and it’s taken some getting used to.”

When confronted with the violence question, Vai Jalajam says that several of the protests have included, hunger strike camps, students walking against police brutality and mining strikes. He then goes on to say that many students have “self immolated” and died protesting the cause.

Jalajam still believes that this is a peaceful movement, saying, “Violence is relative. Yes there have been buses that were burnt when Central Government took back it statements and Andhra leaders statues were demolished. Again, I could go on and on about this but there never was a movement more non-violent and peaceful than the Telangana movement.”

The public opinion is split

But how does the general public feel about this movement? Leigh Garcia-George says, “At this point, I think it’s unfortunate that people are dying. But it’s mostly a nuisance for my husband and I when we go to work. The traffic jams and street closings just keep happening.”

Others seem reluctant that Telangana should secede and believe that this may lead to other problems.

Manish Patel, a Business Manager and Bayer employee says, “If the secession happens it could lead to other smaller communities and regions in other states of India to want to secede and form their own state.” Patel also believes that this may eventually lead to destabilization of the entire government structure as more and more smaller regions now want different things, in turn leading to making rules and regulations in India more complex.

Others believe that the Telangana’s need to keep their culture intact is a reason to not “move forward” with the times.

Neha Kasudhan, a student in Noida Area, India says, “Is backwardness really a reason for a separate state? This situation is general public views that are fighting without knowing what it will actually cause.”

Having said this, Manish Patel still recognizes and respects why Telangana would want to be separate. He says, “I can understand why the region would want to secede as the people of the region want their own identity to be represented in the government rather than a mixture of several different identities.”

TeleguOne news team member Dilip Kumar Chowdary gathered some statistics from the Bureau of Economics and Statistics to give readers a better understanding of the Telangana situation.

Kumar says, “The scenario in Andhra Pradesh is different than other states.”

It’s true. Telangana is the most densely populated, the healthiest region, the biggest economy and agriculture. With this report there is no reason why Telangana wouldn’t be able to sustain itself, as it’s own state. However, there is also a great amount of people, both Adhra officials and residents of Hyderabad that think things are fine just as they are. Of course the population must take into account how this will affect other regions that are trying to secede. With India having such a large and diverse population with many cultures it is important to think of all the reactions and effects a big decision like this could mean. Only time will tell if the marriage between Andhra and Telangana will end in divorce.

Climate Change May Spell Trouble For Argentine Wine Industry

By Graylyn Roose
Edited and produced by Taylor Pool
Along the edges of the Andes along the border with Chile, sit the fields that provide Argentina with much of its revenue. The fields of grapes that cover the dry, arid mountain ridges are grown to produce the wares of the fifth largest wine industry in the world and Argentina’s economy takes 1.4 percent of its GDP from its success.

Yet on the outskirts of South America there is another kind of mountain; glaciers that developed on the Andes range. Scientists and environmental activists are concerned about the effect that climate change might have on these ice caps, which could threaten the fragile conditions needed to sustain Argentina’s viniculture.

Marcos Daviano is a professor in the University of Buenos Aires’ School of Agronomy. His research, which has included reports for the United Nations Development Project, has dealt with the possible consequences of climate change for South America’s agricultural sector. Daviano said that climate change could have an impact on the quantity of the wine industry in Argentina’s mountainous regions.

“Not so much on the quality, but probably on the yield,” said Daviano, who noted that the wine industry has begun to develop a comprehensive plan to protect its industry, should climate change have a negative effect on production. “They do have a strategic plan, if you will. I don’t think they’ve refreshed it over the last few years. But they do have a plan.”

An article put out by the Pontificia Universidad Catolica Argentina, a university in Buenos Aires, asserted that the temperature and precipitation levels of the Chilean-Argentine wine regions have already changed. In “South American Viticulture, Wine Production and Climate Change,” the authors note that the region often experiences wide swings in climate and weather conditions, but predict that the average temperature of the region could rise as much as two degrees Celsius by 2050.

Daviano said he couldn’t comment with authority on concrete temperature numbers, but admitted that predictions regarding climate change suggest that global warming will cause more extreme conditions—exactly the kind of change that could make Argentina’s wine industry suffer.

“The predictions are that wet areas, due to climate change, will become wetter and dry regions will become dryer,” Daviano said.

He said that dryer summers with less precipitation could affect water availability.

“Access to freshwater could be an issue. All the wine establishments in Argentina rely on irrigation,” Daviano said. “When the ability of freshwater for people and animals starts to end, our culture is the first one that’s going to be affected by this.”

Furthermore, an increase in climate contributes to the gradual shrinking of the glaciers that surround South America. Although this would seem to create opportunities to provide irrigation for the wine industry, Daviano said that this is not the case. Rather, area viticulture depends on the seasonal ebb and flow of the melting patterns.

“Precipitation in the wine-growing areas usually comes from melted snow,” Daviano said.

Some say production is not at risk

Martin Cavagnaro is the coordinator for the Argentine Intersectoral Forum for Sustainable Viniculture (FIAVIS) a group that works to raise awareness about issues of sustainability and climate change as they relate to Argentina’s wine industry. He said the grapes need just the right amount of water to be right for wine production.

“On the vine, especially in an arid area such as the province of Mendoza, it is essential that the supply is adequate at certain stages of the cycle for quality crops,” said Cavagnaro, who explained that high levels of water could cause fungal diseases in the plants. Cavagnaro admitted that climate change is producing changes in the worldwide wine industry but said he thinks the negative changes will depend on how the effects are handled.

“Climate change is producing different responses in different wine crops worldwide…but my personal opinion is that activity is not at risk,” Cavagnaro said. “The degree of threat will result from the ability of each region to mitigate climate change impacts.”

Enrique Maurtua is the head of the Climate Change Department at Fundacion Biosfera, an environmental organization based in Argentina.  He is also the Regional Coordinator for the Climate Action Network of Latin America and works on international and national climate change policy. He believes that if current policies do not change, the world will see an increase of four degrees in average world temperature by 2050.

Although concerned for the fate of the wine industry if subtle temperature increases occur, Maurtua says that agriculture is one small part of the ecosystem.

“If the climate is changing, the species can’t grow in this place anymore,” Maurtua said, explaining that the diversity of animals is vital to the life cycle of seeds. “You need that biological reserve to keep the seeds [going].”
He says it’s tough to apply climate change policy to the agricultural industry because climate shifts are so difficult to predict.

“It takes into account many data,” Maurtua said. “This does not mean you cannot do it. But climate change is complex because you need many variable factors.” 

Daviano said that Argentina has made significant strides in the area of sustainability and the reduction of deforestation, but that the country has work to do in regards to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with cars mainly relying on fossil fuels. These factors have been attributed in the opinions of some experts to an increase in global temperature.

“Huge progress can be made over the next 50 years or so…but there’s very little that’s actually been done.”

However the landscape may change for the wine industry, Maurtua said that it is vital for the wine industry and individual wine producers to continue to collaborate to come up with ways to make their grape growth as productive as possible, in spite of the challenges that environmental change could cause.

“The most important thing is to keep working with them,” Maurtua said. “They do know the climate is changing and they want to keep sustaining their work.”

Ten years after euthanasia law, opposition still simmers in Belgium

By Taylor Pool

Against all odds, one 16-year-old Belgian teenager is still alive.

Tikvah's brain damage
Photo contributed by Lionel Roosemont
Tikvah Roosemont was born with about half a brain. Doctors predicted she would likely die before birth, during birth or shortly after. They advised her parents to abort her in the seventh month of gestation. Lionel Roosemont, a professional guide to battlefield sites from World War I, said he and his wife wanted to give his daughter a chance to live and refused to abort her. 

Though doctors predicted otherwise, today Tikvah is neither deaf, lame, blind nor dead.

On the 10-year anniversary of the law legalizing euthanasia, a process defined as causing the death of an adult by medical means at his or her own request, Roosemont is still speaking out against possible further additions to the law. 

He said there is talk that lawmakers could decide to legalize abortion until one day before birth, infanticide of handicapped babies or euthanasia of minors, with or without parental consent.  

Roosemont said few people dare speak out against these sensitive issues, but because his daughter has been subjected to media attention for 15 years, he continues to speak out in an effort to protect what he called “the sanctity of life.”

Roosemont said he and his wife still receive questions and accusations of committing an ethical blunder by not aborting Tikvah. It is incidents like these that form the basis of Roosemont’s motivation to speak out against euthanasia and other end-of-life decisions. 

“We have to testify about our lives and about what is happening in Belgium as it is getting worse and worse today,” he said.

Under the law, however, a patient is not granted his or her request for euthanasia until the physical or psychological suffering cannot be alleviated, the patient makes repeated requests, the treating physician receives a concurrent opinion from one or more consulting physicians depending on the case, the case is heard by a review board and the patient is given options other than euthanasia to consider.

Majority of the population approves of the law

According to Dr. Kenneth Chambaere, a sociologist and researcher of end-of-life decisions in Belgium, 80 percent of the Belgian population does not agree with Roosemont and his anti-euthanasia beliefs. 

Activists for the euthanasia law such as Jacqueline Herremans, president of the French organization called the Association for the Right to Die in Dignity, say whether one chooses euthanasia or not, having the choice to request or perform euthanasia is what matters.

Herremans was speaking about herself when she said, “There is only one person who is able to decide for me.”

To present an argument not commonly explored, Roosemont said euthanasia should not be legal because it is fundamentally against the beliefs of each of the political parties in Belgium. He says the Christian Democrats should be against it for religious reasons, the Liberal Democrats because misuse of the law has allowed many people to be killed without their consent (a fact Roosemont said was confirmed in the health journal The Lancet) and Social Democrats because euthanasia victimizes the “weakest members of society” and kills them at their weakest times, a victimization Social Democrats claim to fight against.

In a 2007 study concerning end-of-life decisions in the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium, Chambaere researched the causes of all deaths in Flanders hospitals. According to the study, 2 percent of all deaths in hospitals were by euthanasia and 1.8 percent of all deaths in hospitals were without the patient’s consent, an illegal procedure that is usually performed by injecting a patient with increasingly larger doses of morphine until they die. 

This procedure is called Life Abbreviation Without Request. Chambaere said in the latter cases, the physicians always have the specific intention to hasten the patient’s death. According to the study, these patients were often not involved in the decision because they were in a coma or had dementia, but the family and other caregivers were usually consulted and involved.

Roosemont described the phenomenon of purposeful deaths in hospitals, both legal and illegal, as a “slippery slope.”

“Once you touch the sanctity of life, and I use sanctity in a non-religious way, you touch the sanctity of humanity,” he said.

Dr. Philippe Mahoux, the head of the Socialist Party in the Senate and one of the fathers of the euthanasia law in Belgium, said the parliament began debates about euthanasia in 2000 and eventually passed the law because there was a demand for it.

The  three most common reasons for euthanasia requests are when a patient is suffering without prospect of improvement, when he or she is feeling a loss of dignity or experiencing pain, according to a study by Dr. Yanna Van Wesemael, a psychologist and researcher of euthanasia requests. 

According to Wesmael’s 2011 study on the outcomes of euthanasia requests, since 2002, only 48 percent of requests have been carried out because some requests are withdrawn, some patients die before administration and some requests are refused.

In Chambaere’s 2007 study, about 2 percent of all deaths in Flanders are caused by euthanasia which amounts to just over 1,000 people a year in that region. Roosemont says he sees signs that the atmosphere in Belgium, since and even before the creation of the euthanasia law, is also becoming present in other parts of the world like the United States. He expresses his concern that a similar law could be introduced in the U.S. if Americans, like Belgians, continue to reject any constraint to their freedom, the freedom to choose when to die included.

The Roosemont family
Photo contributed by Lionel Roosemont
Roosemont said it is heart-wrenching to him to see so many people being euthanized each year.

“I love my country,” he said. “It breaks my heart to have to be so open about what is happening at the moment in Belgium.”