householdairpollutionWhat is the world’s deadliest environmental problem?

Household air pollution. According to the World Health Organization’s latest report air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk, and the main cause is entirely preventable:

Around 3 billion people still cook and heat their homes using solid fuels (i.e. wood, crop wastes, charcoal, coal and dung) in open fires and leaky stoves. Most are poor, and live in low- and middle-income countries.

Such inefficient cooking fuels and technologies produce high levels of household air pollution with a range of health-damaging pollutants, including small soot particles that penetrate deep into the lungs. In poorly ventilated dwellings, indoor smoke can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels for small particles. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children, who spend the most time near the domestic hearth.

Household air pollution (HAP) caused by the inefficient use of solid fuels results in 4.3 million premature deaths each year – almost three times as many as died from from AIDS. HAP is also an important contributor to ambient air pollution, which caused a further 3.7 million deaths in 2012. Additionally, more than 50 percent of premature deaths among children under 5 are due to pneumonia caused by particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.

What is household air pollution?
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Blog author: sstanley
Friday, September 19, 2014
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DegenerationSamuel Gregg, Director of Research at Acton, recently reviewed Niall Ferguson’s latest, The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die. In the book, Ferguson discusses the symptoms of a decaying society and explains what causes rich economies to decline.

Though the book is a short one and written for a nonspecialist audience, Ferguson develops a very strong case to illustrate how the hollowing out of the rule of law, the deterioration of representative government into soft despotism, the increasingly crony-capitalist features of today’s market economies, and the ongoing implosion of civil society are now costing us dearly. Part of the problem, Ferguson makes clear, is that there is no easy fix to these particular problems. One cannot vote something like rule of law back into existence. A flourishing civil society does not simply spring forth ex nihilio. Unfettering the market from literally tens of thousands of regulations is no easy exercise and cannot be accomplished by the stroke of a pen.

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One of the most profound ironies in our current debates over religious liberty is the Left’s persistent decrying of business as short-sighted and materialistic even as they simultaneously attempt to dismantle the Hobby Lobbys of the world, who routinely act on transcendent conscience and conviction.

Business is certainly about far more than some materialistic bottom line, but this is precisely why we need protections for religious liberty. If we fail to promote religious liberty for businesses, how can we ever expect the marketplace to contribute to holistic and widespread human flourishing — economic, social, spiritual, or otherwise?

In a marvelous talk at AEI’s recent Evangelical Leadership Summit, hosted by Values and Capitalism, Dr. Russell Moore points to precisely this, arguing that we need to cultivate churches, business, institutions, and governments whose consciences “are not so malleable that they can be directed simply by the whims of the marketplace” or “by government edict.”

Watch the full thing here, which is followed by other insightful speakers, including a talk by Brian Grim, whose research on business and religious liberty nicely complements Moore’s thoughts:

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A painting from the "Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child" exhibit

A painting from the “Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child” exhibit

This November marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. This momentous occasion symbolizing the decline of Soviet Communism is sure to be met with joyous celebration, not only in Germany, but around the world.

While November signifies Soviet Communism’s decline it also commemorates one of its darkest, most horrendous hours. Annually on the fourth Saturday of November, Ukrainians remember the brutal, man-made famine imposed on their country by Joseph Stalin and his Communist regime in the 1930s. The tragedy, which became known as the “Holodomor” (“death by hunger”) resulted from Stalin’s efforts to eliminate Ukraine’s independent farmers in order to collectivize the agricultural process.

Estimated to have claimed, through murder and forced starvation, the lives of almost 7 million Ukrainians, the Holodomor is recognized as a genocide by more than a dozen countries, including the United States.

In an effort to expose this largely unknown chapter of Ukrainian history and the corrupt ideology which caused it, the Acton Institute will host an evening combined lecture and art event on November 6th titled, “The Famine Remembered: Lessons from Ukraine’s Holodomor and Soviet Communism.” The presentation will feature Acton’s director of research, Samuel Gregg, and the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art’s education committee chair, Luba Markewycz. Markewycz will share her exhibit, “Holodomor Through the Eyes of a Child,” composed of artwork created by contemporary children throughout Ukraine. Gregg will discuss the historical context and the ways in which the Holodomor amounted to an assault on human dignity, individual liberty, private property, and religious freedom.

We invite you to come learn about this important part of history and see it depicted through art. For more information and to register, please visit the event webpage.

falling down drunkVox is telling us that it’s “dangerous to be a woman in America.” (The news is delivered in a creepy video where statistics are displayed via writing on a woman’s body. No objectification there…) They also want us to know that it may take a “nuclear option” to tackle sexual assault on college campuses.

Enough.

In the U.S., 1 out of 6 women will suffer some sort of sexual assault during her life. 73 percent of the time, she will know her assailant. I do not want to downplay this; every assault is evil. However, 64 million girls in the world today will be forced into child marriage. 140 million girls will suffer genital mutilation. 50 percent of women in the EU report sexual harassment in the workplace. 1500 acid attacks are reported annually; the vast majority of the victims are female. Then there are these restrictions on women:

  • Women in Saudi Arabia cannot legally drive.
  • Women in Yemen are considered “half a witness” in court, and must receive permission from a male relative to leaver their home.
  • In Morocco, females who are raped may be charged as being criminally negligent in their own assault.

Still think we American ladies have it tough? (more…)

It’s interesting to debate and share idea like freedom of speech, religious liberty or entrepreneurship. Helping folks in the developing world create and sustain businesses if exciting. Watching women who’ve been victimized by human trafficking or their own culture find ways to support themselves and their families is wonderful. But none of this happens without rule of law.

Rule of law is not “sexy.” It doesn’t get the press of a brilliantly successful NGO. There are no great photo ops of folks picketing in front of the Supreme Court with signs touting rule of law. But virtually nothing can happen without it. (more…)

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, September 19, 2014
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Major League Baseball’s human-trafficking problem
Dara Lind, Vox

Cuba is one of the biggest sources of international baseball talent. But, because of the US embargo, most Cuban players have to use smugglers to get themselves to the United States. What’s more, due to a quirk in Major League Baseball rules around contracts, those Cuban players often first have to travel to a third country, like Mexico — a difficult process.

The Heart of the Gendercide Problem
Elizabeth Gerhardt, Christianity Today

What the church can do to address the issues underlying global violence against women.

The Illusion of Neutrality
Anthony Esolen, Public Discourse

The secular state cannot be neutral in matters of religion.

A Tale of Two Churches
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Aleteia

What happens when the State establishes itself as a rival religion through administrative coercion?

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, September 18, 2014
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bible-studyMost Christians recognize that the Bible has lot to say about economic topics, such as money and poverty. Yet there is a paradoxical assumption, whether stated or unspoken, that these passages don’t speak to larger economic issues. Occasionally this is true, but more often than not, we can find principles from Scripture that can help us discern how we should think about matters related to economics.

Consider, for example, the issue of economic systems. The Bible doesn’t claim to favor any particular nation-based economic system, such as American-style capitalism or the old Soviet-style communism. But Scripture does seem to have a clear preference for the economic activities that underpin the free market. As David Kotter explains,
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jailIt is estimated that, at any time in the U.S., there are 1.2 million people with mental illness who are being held either in jail or prison. Some of them, without a doubt, truly belong there. For most, though, jail and prison has become a quasi-triage center/hospital/safety net. And it takes a huge toll.

Take Cook County, Ill. for example. Sheriff Tom Dart keeps track of the mentally ill that come under his jurisdiction.

On average, at least 30% of the 12,000 inmates suffer from a “serious” mental illness, though the sheriff said the estimate is “a horrifically conservative number.” One of those inmates, Dart said, was a “chronic self-mutilator” who has been arrested more than 100 times, ringing up more than $1 million in repeated arrest- and detention-related costs.

Another inmate, the sheriff said, recently had to be fitted with a hockey mask and thick gloves resembling oven mitts to keep him from gouging out his remaining eye. The 43-year-old man, suffering bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, had ripped one eye from the socket before his arrival at the jail, complaining that he “didn’t want to see evil anymore.”

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Kid_superhero_muscle12The modern age has introduced many blessings when it comes to child-rearing and child development, offering kids ever more opportunities for education, play, personal development, and social interaction.

Yet as time, leisure, and wealth continue to increase, and as we move farther away from years of excessive and intensive child labor, we ought to be wary of falling into a different sort of lopsided lifestyle — one that over-elevates other goods (e.g. study, practice, play) to the detriment of good old-fashioned labor.

As I’ve written previously, the mundane and sometimes painful duties of day-to-day life have largely vanished from modern childhood, with parents continuing to insulate their children from any activity that might involve risk, pain, or (gasp!) boredom. Given our own newfound conveniences and pleasures, we adults suffer from this same insulation and pleasure-seeking, but especially when it comes to our kids, who are entering this peculiar world in a unique stage of development, we ought to be especially attentive of the formative fruits of productive labor.

When it comes to the cultivation of character and the human imagination, what do we lose in a world wherein work, service, and sacrifice have been largely replaced by superficial pleasures and one-dimensional modes of formation? What do we lose if our children learn only to play hard or study well, without also encountering a long day’s toil on a routine basis? (more…)