In case you weren't able to join World Bank economists and regular bloggers David Dollar and Louis Kuijs earlier today in a live online chat, a transcript from the in-depth discussion is available here.
When I think about the biggest frustrations that typically come with living in, or simply visiting, a big city, bad traffic probably tops my list. For me, few things are more maddening than being stuck in a slowly moving (or worse, stand-still) line of cars. This is why it's not too surprising that bicycle-sharing programs have become quite popular here in Washington, D.C., and in several North American and European cities.
Now in Asia, these programs, which provide people with free or affordable access to bikes, are apparently starting to take off in popularity. The Springwise entrepreneurial blog points us to ambitious new bike-sharing organizations in the Taiwanese cities of Taipei and Kaohsiung City, as well as similar programs in Changwon, Korea and Hangzhou, China.
Cities and communities love and often support bike-sharing programs because they help reduce traffic congestion, noise and pollution. And the rentals are usually cheap, giving another option for transportation to more people. I suppose bicycle congestion still has a potential of being an annoyance, but at least they don't smell of exhaust and can't honk at you.
With the release last week of its latest quarterly assessment of the Chinese economy, the World Bank lowered its projection for China's GDP growth to 6.5 percent in 2009, yet remained optimistic that the country's economy has started to show signs of stabilizing amid global financial turmoil.
A visit to the vast Pacific Ocean can make anyone feel insignificant. Yet despite its immense size, we've learned over the years that the old saying, "the solution to pollution is dilution," doesn't quite hold water (sorry for the pun) when it comes to trash, such as plastic bags. Garbage dumped in the ocean doesn’t just go away, it washes up on beaches or amalgamates in so-called "trash vortexes" in the Pacific.
An organization in Nairobi, Kenya, called UniquEco has been working to make good use out of a surprising type of debris that is apparently quite a nuisance there – flip flop-style sandals. Thousands of flip-flops that wash up on the East African shoreline every month apparently originate in Asia (link translated to English by Google – see the original page in Spanish here).
The organization, which also calls itself the "Flip-Flop Recycling Company", is taking the discarded footwear and having local artists turn handmade pieces of art and other products. They then resell some of the products to tourists and residents in Nairobi, while exporting the majority of the goods to distributors around the world, according to their website. Their online store has some pretty neat-looking items, including bags, wallets and even a chess set.
It's a pretty inventive and neat way to turn floating garbage into a useful form of revenue.
An interesting new wiki tool called Climate Lab takes this concept one step further. The people behind the site, which was beta-launched last week, hope that it will serve as both a clearinghouse source of information for the general public, as well as a collaborative and knowledge-sharing tool for experts of issues related to climate change.
Despite concerns of the Chinese government about its recently recognized Internet Addiction Disorder, there is little doubt that the web is now part of life for the country's 298 million netizens, as well as an evident piece of the government's communications strategy.
After East Asia & Pacific on the rise blogger and World Bank conservationist Tony Whitten recently questioned the morality of jetting off to Asia so often for work, this chart from GOOD Magazine – comparing (sort of) the efficiency of different modes of transportation – caught my eye.
Since the people who made the chart are considering gallons of fuel used per passenger to travel a long distance, Tony’s frequently used airplanes are far from being the worst offenders on the list, which is led by gas-guzzling SUVs and cruise ships. When it comes to realistically traveling 350 miles, your most efficient choices – in the following order, according to this chart – are to travel by bus, train, or (you guessed it) airplane.
If that doesn't cut it for you, however, and you are feeling particularly energetic, they made a conversion to human energy. In such a case, GOOD estimates, a person would have to consume approximately 16 Whoppers to complete the trip by bike and 48 of the mouth-watering cheeseburgers to trek the distance on foot (To be safe, I'll take a similar stance as GOOD in "neither endorsing or denouncing the consumption of Whoppers").
As an aside, I would have liked to figure out how many of the burgers it would take to fuel the number of air miles logged by World Bank Group's Washington, DC, staff (as Tony discovered, it equals at least 400 million miles each year) – were they to travel by foot. But seeing as my math skills were never too great, maybe one of you, dear readers, can help me figure out their equation?
(hat tip to FlowingData)
For most of us, when a disaster happens in a far away place, we only get brief glimpses of the immediate aftermath and subsequent recovery efforts – often only through news media or occasionally close-by bloggers. During four years of reconstruction after the devastating tsunami that hit the Indonesian province of Aceh in 2004, few have seen the rebuilding process like those who are part of the recovery efforts.
The Multi-Donor Fund (MDF), which is managed by the World Bank with contributions and guidance from 15 other international donor partners, continues to work on the ground in Aceh and Nias. The reconstruction has been extremely successful, with more than 100,000 new houses constructed, more than 90,000 hectares of agricultural land restored and 2,500 kilometers of road built. In late 2008, the MDF held a photo competition for people involved with projects or agencies related to reconstruction. The resulting pictures are not professionally created, but they give a beautifully close and comprehensive view of the rebuilding of Aceh.
(Hover your mouse over "Notes" to see information about each photo)