December 9, 2014

Kathryn Bigelow Shows The Connection Between Elephant Poaching And Terrorism In Animated Short Film

Director Kathryn Bigelow of Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty fame has helmed a short and animated public service ad (PSA) that will make you think twice before purchasing anything that's made of ivory. Called Last Days, the short film shows in reverse chronology how ivory products make their way to a marketplace in Asia. The film queries the viewer, "When you buy something made of ivory, where does the money go?"

Last Days not only tells the viewer where the money goes, it also tells rather graphically how and where the ivories come from. Bigelow collaborated with Annapurna Pictures and the environment organization WildAid in making the film. WildAid is an organization whose main focus is in reducing the demand for wildlife products.

Last Days claims that an elephant is murdered every 15 minutes, over 30,000 of them are gunned down every year, and if this continues, elephants in the wild can go extinct in just a span of 11 years.

There's an unmistakable connection between elephant poaching and global terrorism. Al-Shabaab, an extremist and jihadist terrorist group in Somalia makes about US$600,000 every month from ivory sales. The group has achieved notoriety in 2013 for murdering 67 people and wounding 175 others at the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya.

Other terrorist groups like The Lord's Resistance Army and Boko Haram also engage in ivory operations and they use the money they get from these operations to carry out their terrorism acts.  For more information about the Last Days, visit its official website here.

December 2, 2014

A Short Documentary On The Saddening Plight Of The Agta And Dumagat Tribes In Aurora

Development is a double-edged sword. In almost all scenarios, it improves the lives of one party while it tramples upon the other. This is the quandary that Agta and Dumagat tribes in certain areas of Aurora have found themselves in.

A major development project by the government is threatening to turn their lives upside down. In fact the project has already started and so far it has eaten millions upon millions of pesos. But because of corruption, negligence, and ineptitude (among others), the project has been more of a bane than a boon to the indigenous people of Aurora.

Who doesn't want development right? But at what cost? The government is offering the people 50,000 pesos per hectare. They are telling them that once the project is completed, they'll be given jobs like guiding people in the yet-to-be-built parks.

This is not betterment of life. At least on the side of the Agta and Dumagats. Right now, they are living rather freely. From this to guiding tourists around is not improvement, it's demotion. The project has to offer something else other than "tourist-guiding" jobs for it to be really pro-people not one to benefit only the elite.

And it's sad, frightening even to see the buildings and structures that the project already started putting up. They are in states of various ruin. They can't even get the thing started right. The project is turning out to be a huge money leak.

Kudos to the students of St. Scholastica's College Manila for producing this short documentary and shedding some light about what's happening there in Aurora.

Wadi Productions

November 20, 2014

Bill Nye's Book "Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation" Is Now Out

Last February of this year, Bill Nye traveled to Petersburg, Kentucky to debate Ken Ham who is arguably the most well-known proponent of young earth creationism (YEC). In a nutshell, the affair was a battle between Nye's belief in the theory of evolution and Ham's faith in the account of creation as found in the Christian Bible.

For over two hours, the two men took to the pulpit to defend their positions. Who won? It depends on who you ask. If you ask people from the scientific community, they would say Nye won by a landslide. If you ask believers of a higher power, many of them would say Ham took home the bacon.

As someone who can't ignore the mountain of evidence supporting the theory of evolution, Nye had all my support when he went to Kentucky and locked horns with a well-known creationist in his home turf. The encounter happened at no other than the Creation Museum, a sprawling institution that teaches people that humans and dinosaurs co-existed less than 10,000 years ago.

The debate sparked a lot of controversy. It was also heavily covered by the media. Controversial or not, there's one undeniable good thing that came out of it. And that is Nye was inspired to write a full-length book to address the issues and questions raised during the debate.

The book has been released this November and it quickly climbed the bestseller lists. Titled Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation, the book was published by St. Martin's Press.
Bill Nye (left) debating Ken Ham (right) in February 2014. Photo: screen-grab from a YouTube video of the debate.

October 22, 2014

Interesting Ideas On Extraterrestrial Life By Evolutionary Biologist Richard Dawkins

Are we alone in the universe? This is an inquiry that the human mind started making when it first became self-aware. Thousands of years flew by and here we are in the thick of the 21st century still scrambling to find definitive answers to the question. As the great Carl Sagan famously said, our home planet is but a pale blue dot in a seemingly never-ending universe. There's gotta be somebody else out there.

So are we alone in the universe? The most rational answer is we don't know. This is of course if you are to provide an answer without the influence of religion. Christianity in particular clings to the concept of creation by a deity as written on the Bible when explaining the origins of man and the universe. As the Christian evangelist Ken Ham once pronounced in a debate with the science educator Bill Nye, intelligent life can only be found on Earth and that the rest of the universe was created by God as proof of his greatness. Obviously, with this position, it follows that Ham and his ilk don't believe in aliens. This is a Christian worldview which is completely different to what you are about to watch.

At least 80% (and this is a conservative figure) of the scientific community believe in the theory of evolution. One of these scientists is Richard Dawkins, a well-known evolutionary biologist and author. In a short video shown at the World-Changing Ideas Summit in New York last October 21, Dawkins explored the idea that there's intelligent life out there and that they may have come to existence in a way that's different from how we on Earth came to be.

The evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. (bbc.com)
One of the main reasons that it's so difficult to the point of impossible to check if there's other life out there is the colossal distance that lies between our planet and other habitable planets outside of our solar system. Dawkins rightfully makes the statement that if we are to ever have contact with extraterrestrial life, it won't be on a direct manner. Our biggest chance is through radio signals from outer space. But then again, these signals would be coming from civilizations that may have already perished or evolved into something else hundreds, thousands, if not millions of years before their signals reached our radars here on Earth. In short, don't raise your expectations too much.

You can watch the video clip on BBC here. For more information on the World-Changing Ideas Summit, go here. They have a ton of really interesting speakers which include Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman, an aerospace engineering professor from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Alexis Ohanian, one of the founders of the social bookmarking/networking site Reddit. Hopefully, they'll be uploading their talks soon for free viewing.

August 27, 2014

Will Kirk Cameron Win The War On Christmas With His New Movie 'Saving Christmas'?

In his brand new movie Saving Christmas which is scheduled for a limited release in the United States on November 14th of this year, actor Kirk Cameron aims to save Christmas by teaching those who are going to see it what Christmas is all about. Cameron wants the film to serve as an inspiration for Christians to stand against what he refers to as a culture that wants to eliminate the faith elements of the holy season. Watch the trailer for the upcoming film below: