Spreading Dengue


When I think of Dengue Fever the last thing to cross my mind would be outbreaks in Europe or North America. Dengue is a tropical problem; found in Africa and jungles of the southern hemisphere – or so I thought. I hadn`t given Dengue much thought; aside from my perception it was a `jungle fever`, something that lurked in the night with malaria, the only other thing I knew was it is also called yellow fever, and caused a lot of trouble for Americans building the Panama Canal. Admittedly, a rather vague understanding.

Aedes aegypti, albopictus, and japonicus are the mosquitoes responsible for spreading this nasty `flu-like` virus. Dengue can`t be transmitted from person to person through contact, only the bite of a female mosquito carrying the virus can spread the unwelcome news. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 50 – 100 million cases annually, with almost half the world population now at risk. Before 1970 only 9 countries had Dengue epidemics, today over 100 countries are plagued by Dengue.

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs117/en/

In the late 90`s carriers were found in Long Island, New York and Ocean County, New Jersey. Today these mosquitoes have shown up from Washington state to Florida, in Canadian provinces, Germany, France, and New Zealand. In North America fewer than 10% of cases are properly diagnosed – it`s unlikely your doctor would suspect Dengue unless you had recently travelled to a tropical location.

Dengue is not epidemic in North America or Europe; it is knocking at the door, and spreading at an incredible rate. There are those who blame it on climate change, and those who credit increased imports of products like `lucky bamboo` harbouring mosquito larvae. Either way these pests are extremely adaptable and by all appearances quite happy to join West Nile Virus as something we need to ponder.

Photo – cbc.ca

Poverty, Disease, and Pollution


If society could adapt to change as readily as marketing firms, the world would likely be a different place. Not for the faint of heart; advertising requires cunning and the ability to disregard conscience and morality. Success granted to those able to put their finger on the prevailing social winds.

Social media is the ad man’s wet dream. Hit “Like” on Facebook, print coupons, sign up for free offers; not only are we doing half the work for them – our actions are tracked and analyzed. It gives the expression “finger on the pulse of the nation” a whole new meaning.

These days poverty, disease, and pollution satisfy the corporate bottom line. Buzz words like ethical, organic, environmentally friendly, and fair trade line the coffers. Philanthropy for profit, a resounding success. Anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly mistaken.

Known as “strategic marketing” or “cause marketing”, companies attaching themselves to social issues put smiles on shareholder faces. In 2006 the “Red” campaign was launched to raise money for Aids in Africa. Championing the cause were Bono and Oprah. Virgin, Converse, Dell, Armani, Motorola, Apple, and the Gap all sold “red” products with a portion of sales going to Aids relief. That year a reported 18 million dollars was donated; over 100 million was spent on the ad campaign, and profits for companies involved skyrocketed. Granted, they raised some money. Call me cynical but ponder what the 100 million they spent on advertising could have done. If conscious of anything other than profits, a true act of charity would tell the story.

Corporate branding with tragedy has become a slick, calculated marketing strategy. I fail to find anything ethical about this illusion. All I ask is that before going out of your way to purchase these socially branded products; you stop and think. If you believe in a cause; find a reputable charity and donate directly. Send the ad men back to the drawing board; profiting from tragedy is despicable.

Timbuktu


In my mind Timbuktu resided on a book shelf, along side Shangri La and El Dorado. I saw it as a place born in the mind of Edgar Rice Burroughs, nothing more than a fictional backdrop for characters like Allan Quartermain. Unlike King Solomon‘s Mine Timbuktu lacked biblical reference, escaping Hollywood treatments featuring Charlton Heston. Instead it was relegated to a euphemism for the ends of the earth, it became synonymous with expressions like “when pigs fly” or “when hell freezes over”.

Timbuktu is far from fictional, and finds itself in a rather tough spot. Located in Mali, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is on the endangered list. Timbuktu was the centre of Islamic teaching in Africa during the 15th and 16th centuries. Located on the edge of the Saharan trade routes, it was believed to have housed 100,000 people in the glory days of the Askia dynasty. Of concern to UNESCO are the Sankore, Djingareyber, and Sidi Yahia Mosques. Urban development, climate, and now war threaten to impact these historical treasures beyond repair.

My ponder is not that Timbuktu is tangible, my thoughts are stuck on Islam and what went wrong. Built during the golden age of Islam, Timbuktu epitomizes a society built on science and knowledge. Europe wallowed in the Dark Ages, while Islam flourished. Of course there was , violence, war, and conquest; human nature is unavoidable. The sad fact is; these once great centres of science and innovation have disintegrated into rigid, closed minded societies, engulfed in religious fervor to the exclusion of all else.

The cradle of civilization is imploding, and it appears history has taught us nothing. Timbuktu exists for now, not as it was but as it has become. I liked it better when it was on my book shelf.

                   Timbuktu            © UNESCO