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Father’s Day and teenage pregnancy in Bolivia

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Fertility rates have been going down all over the World much faster than most people realize. Fertility rates in Bolivia, for example, have come down from 6.5 babies per woman in 1971 to 3.2 in 2013, which is typical of developing countries (1).

This evolution made me suspect that the problem of high teenage pregnancy in Bolivia perhaps has already solved itself, and that I don’t really have to worry about becoming a grandmother anytime soon.

However, a quick look at the latest Bolivian population census (2012) indicates that teenage pregnancy is still very common. Seven percent of all 15 year olds already have a child, and this share increases to a whopping 49 percent for the 20 year olds, many of which already have 3 children (see Table 1).

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Anti-feministic musings on International Women’s Day

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Today is International Women’s Day and you are likely to be bombarded with posts, articles and speeches listing all the ways in which women are wronged and discriminated against. Some of it is true in some places, and there are definitely problems that have to be dealt with, but the concept of Women’s Day still bothers me, for several reasons.

First, designating one day as Women’s Day would seem to imply that the other 364 days of the year are men’s days. That is a very long way from equality. Either we should have one Women’s day and one Men’s day, or neither of the two. Anything else would be discriminating.

Second, Women’s Day tends to perpetuate the perception that women are weak and repressed and unfairly treated. But why is it that in almost every country on Earth (except Botswana, Swaziland and Mali), women live longer than men? (1). Either women are built much tougher or they live easier, less dangerous and less stressful lives than men. Women are a lot smarter and stronger than feminists give them credit for.

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Incredible Internet Inequality

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen & Fabián Soria*

According to the latest Bolivian Population Census (2012), only 9.6% of households have Internet access (either fixed or wireless). Considering that the Bolivian Constitution puts telecommunications (including Internet) on par with water, sanitation and electricity as a basic human right, this coverage is outrageously low.

The main reason for the low coverage is the high cost. Even after nationalizing the telecommunications sector (2008) and investing USD 300 million in our very own telecommunications satellite, Tupac Katari (2013), Internet services in Bolivia remain patchy, expensive and slow compared to other countries in the region. For most Bolivians, having Internet at home is simply unaffordable.

Figure 1 shows that, for an average person in Bolivia, one hour of work would buy less than 1 day of a lousy 1Mbps (Megabits per second) Internet connection, whereas the average person in “developed countries,” such as the Netherlands, South Korea, Denmark, and China could buy several years worth of such a service for just one hour of work.

Figure 1: Internet Purchasing Power (days of 1Mbps Internet service that can be bought for one hour of work), as well as average download speed and average cost per Mbps.

Internet1

Source: Authors’ elaboration based on a survey among Facebook friends (and friends’ friends) during February 2015 Notes: The calculations are rough and based on a very limited number of observations in each country (often just one). Effective download speed was measured by all participants using http://www.speedtest.net/. The average hourly salary is estimated from the Gross National Income per person. Most friends are located in main cities, which may not be representative of the whole country. In some places, free cable TV is included in the price.

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The Universal Beer Work Constant

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

It’s Carnaval week/month in Bolivia – the time of year when most beer is drunk. Beer prices have just gone up again, now reaching an outrageous Bs. 9, or more, for a small can of standard beer in supermarkets. This corresponds to USD 3.64 for 1 liter of beer, way more than it costs in rich countries such as Denmark.

If we take into account the low level of wages in Bolivia and the high prices of beer, Bolivia becomes one of the most expensive places in the world for beer lovers. On average, Bolivians have to work about 145 minutes to afford 1 liter of beer (1), whereas in the United States on average they only have to work for 10 minutes (see figure 1).

Figure 1: Minutes of work required to purchase 1 liter of beer in a supermarket

Source: Author’s elaboration based on data from The Economist + Bolivian data (http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/09/daily-chart-13?zid=319&ah=17af09b0281b01505c226b1e574f5cc1)

Source: Author’s elaboration based on data from The Economist + Bolivian data (http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2012/09/daily-chart-13?zid=319&ah=17af09b0281b01505c226b1e574f5cc1)

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Homo rapiens, species extinction and the meaning of life

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

The impacts of Homo sapiens on this planet are enormous.  We have turned about a fifth of the total land area of this planet into agricultural fields and pasture to feed ourselves; we are burning massive amounts of fossil fuels, thus altering the composition of the atmosphere and causing climate change; we are extracting at least 150 million tons of fish from the oceans every year; and we area leaving our trash everywhere. This predatory behavior has prompted John Gray, professor emeritus of London School of Economics, to call us Homo rapiens (1). Guilt over our adverse impacts is widespread, and the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement goes as far as suggesting that humans should stop breeding in order to save the planet (2).

It is true that we are a rather successful and aggressive species, at least so far. But we have only been here for a few hundred thousand years and the 4.5 billion year old planet has been through a lot worse than humans. More than 99% of all the species that have ever lived on this planet went extinct before humans arrived on the scene. Most disappeared simply because they were not adaptive and competitive enough to survive over a long period of time (background extinction), while others disappeared in mass extinction events, such as the one that wiped out the dinosaurs and most other land-based species 65 million years ago. Still, the level of biodiversity is probably higher than it has ever been (see figure 1).

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Transforming problems into opportunities by mimicking nature

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is about to end its 20th annual conference in Lima, Peru, and heads of state and negotiators from every country on Earth are fighting to get other countries to reduce their CO2 emissions as much as possible, in order to keep global warming below catastrophic levels.

This approach to tackling climate change has, as one might have expected, proven depressingly ineffective. Since the Kyoto Protocol was agreed on in 1997, CO2 emissions have increased steadily, with not the slightest hint of a slow-down. The level of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere has now reached 400 ppm (parts per million), which is more than ever before observed in the history of Homo Sapiens.

Fortunately, there are lots of creative, constructive and persistent people working on practical solutions for a happier, healthier, greener and more sustainable future. Of the thousands of inspiring, creative and constructive TED talks, I have selected three that focus on transforming our current climate change problems into opportunities by mimicking nature:

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Genetically Modified Organisms and the perils of being too precautionary

Foto Anna Sophia 3

By: Anna Sophia Doyle*

At a time when the global view of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) grows ever more polarized, the seventh meeting of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety[1] was both timely and symptomatic of the current divide. Agenda items were many and varied, including compliance to the protocol, financial mechanisms and resources, and socioeconomic considerations regarding the use of living modified organisms (LMOs)[2].

But the most hotly contested issue without doubt was the debate surrounding the attempted endorsement of the Guidance for Environmental Risk Assessment of LMOs (referred to from here on simply as “the Guidance”).

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Day of Spring, Love, Peace and Ice

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

The 21st of September marks the beginning of spring in the southern hemisphere. In Bolivia, it is also the day of Love, Peace, Students, Doctors and Photographers (!!). Most relevant for this article, however, today is usually the day of the year that the extent of sea ice in the northern hemisphere reaches rock bottom, much to the concern of polar bears (or at least people concerned about polar bears). In the southern hemisphere, on the other hand, sea ice usually reaches its maximum extent on this day (possibly to the delight of penguins).

In this satellite era, the extent of sea ice is an easy-to-measure indicator about the state of the global climate (warmer climate -> less ice), but the extent of sea-ice itself also affects the global climate (less ice cover -> lower albedo (reflectance) -> warmer climate). Thus, many people watch this indicator closely, and the availability of several independent web-sites with daily updated data on sea-ice extent makes this possible, and even delightful (at least for data-freaks like me).

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Bolivia’s Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism in the limelight

Thanks to the collaboration of Candido Pastor, Wilberth Tejerina and Edil Tellez, we had a very interesting program centered on the eco-tourism potential of the lowlands of La Paz. Photo credit: GLP films/IDRC

Thanks to the collaboration of Candido Pastor, Wilberth Tejerina and Edil Tellez, we had a very interesting program centered on the eco-tourism potential of the lowlands of La Paz. Photo credit: GLP films/IDRC

During the first week of September 2014, the California-based film company GLP films came to Bolivia to make a video about the Joint Mitigation and Adaptation Mechanism for the Integral and Sustainable Management of Forests and Mother Earth, which is Bolivia’s alternative to the international REDD+ mechanism to reduce deforestation (see expedition web-site).

The video project is financed by the Think Tank Initiative managed by the International Development Research Centre in Canada, and the resulting video is expected be featured at a side event at the COP20 in Lima in December 2014.

Under the direction of Lykke Andersen from INESAD, and with the help of many other institutions and individuals, a 6-person film crew, armed to the teeth with gear, visited La Paz, Rurrenabaque, Bella Altura, Pando, Santa Cruz, Concepción, and El Torno.

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Are married women really the only ones who need family planning?

LisbethVogensenBy: Lisbeth Vogensen*

One common indicator used in many family planning and sexual and reproductive health research documents is that of unmet need for contraception/family planning (see Figure 1). In most cases, this unmet need indicator is followed by this description: percentage of women aged 15 to 49 who are married or in a union (1). Running into this indicator not only makes the feminist inside me stand up in protest, it also lets me know that the information presented on unmet need is incomplete. This unmet need data that only includes women who are married (2) is then generalized to be representative of the entire country/region/world.

Figure 1: Percentage of women with an unmet need for family planning (any method) among those aged 15 to 49 who are married or in a union: most recent data available

mapa_unmetneeds

Source: World Contraceptive Patterns 2013 (United Nations, 2013), available from www.unpopulation.org.

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