Monday, July 02, 2007

The Bottom Billion

The day after Canada Day celebrations - let me recommend seeing The Cowboy Junkies live. Great show.

I'm reading the review of Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What We Can Do About It. Collier makes interesting arguments regarding focusing development efforts on the poorest billion people, among them his identification of the reasons why civil wars have plagued sub-Saharan Africa: the risk of conflict is exacerbated by a relatively high proportion of young, uneducated men, a numerical imbalance among ethnic groups, and a supply of natural resources (like diamonds or oil) which can encourage and finance conflict.

I'm also reading Freeman Dyson's article, Our Biotech Future, in The New York Review of Books: favours using genetic engineering to narrow the gap between rich and poor countries in general and stop the migration from rural areas to cities in particular. He describes a vision of genetic technology " halting the migration from villages to megacities. The three components of the vision are all essential: the sun to provide energy where it is needed, the genome to provide plants that can convert sunlight into chemical fuels cheaply and efficiently, the Internet to end the intellectual and economic isolation of rural populations." I'm inclined to argue against his embrace of genetically modified crops to alleviate rural poverty, but I'm still thinking about it.

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