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Clutching At Straws

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White
 

Last night at a restaurant in Gaborone I ordered a diet coke which, when it was delivered, was presented with a plastic straw. My dinner guest was horrified and proceeded to throw some shock-and-awe plastic pollutant statistics this way in order to enlighten me on the negative impact my consumer behaviour has.

Of the eight million tons of plastic trash that flow every year into the world’s oceans, the plastic drinking straw, this small, slender tube, utterly unnecessary for most beverage consumption, is at the centre of a growing environmental campaign aimed at convincing people to stop using them to help save the oceans – and I had not got the memo.

 

A few years ago like me you may have seen the eight-minute video of a four-inch section of straw being removed from a Costa Rican sea turtle’s nostril. The video is painful to watch, and has been viewed more than 11 million times on you tube. I have now seen it a few times as it has been replayed recently on SKY news alongside coverage of sharks and other marine life being dissected to reveal masses of plastic waste inside their stomachs.

Despite this I have not changed my behaviour and it’s not because I am fond of straws – I rarely use them and although I certainly never ask for one,  I never not ask either – and therein lies the point that I wish to make. “If you have the opportunity to make this choice and not to use a plastic straw, this can help keep this item off our beaches and raise awareness on plastic in the ocean,” says Jemma Jambeck, the University of Georgia engineering professor whose ground-breaking 2015 study was the first measurement of how much plastic debris enters the ocean every year. “And if you can make this one choice, maybe you can do even more.”

 

Except for people with medical needs, straws are not needed to consume beverages or water.  It is estimated that Americans use 500 million straws daily and citizen activists, my dinner guest being one, want to shrink that number. As it stands, being small and lightweight, straws often never make it into recycling bins; the evidence of this failure is clearly visible on any beach.

And while straws may amount to only a tiny fraction of ocean plastic, their size and shape make them one of the most insidious polluters because they entangle marine animals and are consumed by fish. Straws are the latest on an expanding list of individual plastic products being banned, taxed, or boycotted in an effort to curb seaborne plastic trash before it outweighs fish, a calculation projected to come true by 2050, according to one study.

 

Last year, California became the first state in the US to ban plastic bags, joining a host of nations that already do so (Kenya, China, Bangladesh, Rwanda, and Macedonia). France has not only banned bags, it has become the first country to also ban plastic plates, cups, and utensils, effective from 2020. San Francisco banned polystyrene, including Styrofoam cups and food containers, packaging peanuts, and beach toys. And in Rhode Island, the release of celebratory balloons is being targeted by activists, after almost 2,200 balloons were picked up on the shores of Aquidneck Island in the last four years.

 

Naturally, the plastics industry opposes bans at every turn. Bag manufacturers have persuaded lawmakers in Florida, Missouri, Idaho, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Indiana to pass legislation outlawing the bag bans, but that’s a topic for another argument on corporate greed versus global survival; and with the way the US is going under the Trump administration who knows if all of this goes backwards instead of progressing.
 

And in this vein, Keith Christman Director for plastic markets for the American Chemistry Council, says they will fight the banning of plastic straws but, what sets the anti-straw campaign apart from other efforts—and why the anti-straw campaign may succeed—is that activists are not seeking to change laws or regulations. They are merely asking consumers to change their habits and say no to straws.

 

Linda Booker, a North Carolina filmmaker, whose documentary, ‘Straws’, is making the rounds of the spring film festival circuit in the United States, says the turtle video, in part, inspired her to take on straws as a film project. She interviewed the scientists and included them in her film.  “I believe a lot of the catalyst for these straw campaigns was the video of the straw in the turtle’s nose,” she says.  

My thinking is that I guess part of the problem is that people see straws as insignificant and unimportant. I saw the turtle thing but never objected when a can would be provided with a straw. I try to make sure that when I go to the supermarket I take by environment friendly bag and resist buying plastic bottled water but is it enough as I provide plastic water bottles in droves to clients who visit our offices for fear that we may offend them if we offer water from a purifier – so I may threaten the marine life just to keep my clients happy and free of offence.


Many times people are overwhelmed by the bigness of the problem and often give up says an actor and activist Christopher Griener. “We need something achievable for everyday humans. The challenge is if we can get rid of plastic straws, let’s start there. Then we can move on from there.” 


Here’s a thought. There is a succinct old saying in English which goes ‘Don’t do as I do, just do as I say’, so maybe I need to put my morals where my mouthpiece is and offer my guests tap water in a straw-less glass (even clear glass is green!). And I would like to challenge you to resist taking straws, specifically asking waiters not to bring them and share this message or is this too much to ask or am I just clutching at straws?

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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