Massive Flooding In North Korea

The news is reporting that there are massive floods in North Korea.

Two major storms over the past two weeks have drenched the impoverished North with some of its heaviest rains in years, severely damaging crops and raising the possibility of famine in a country that already battles chronic food shortages.

This isn’t good considering that all aid work stops when North Korea starts threatening political stability by test firing missiles.

However, the United Nations World Food Programme has offered to aid the victims, but under certain conditions. Hopefully, a deal gets worked out.

Tsunami Hits Java

Yahoo News is reporting that a tsunami hit the island of Java today.

Regional bulletins that the 7.7-magnitude undersea earthquake was strong enough to send a killer wave steaming toward the country worst hit by the 2004 Asian tsunami did not reach the victims, because Indonesia’s main island has no warning system.

Worldchanging links to a few sites that are posting updates.

I haven’t heard any word about how UNESCO’s tsunami warning system functioned during the short period before this disaster occurred.

Mom and Pop Hotels In Emerging Markets Tap Into Online Marketing

World Hotel Link

Private Sector Development Blog has a good post about World Hotel Link, a concept where small hoteliers in emerging markets use the internet to provide accomodations to first world travelers.

The idea was that independent travellers in rich countries can connect to people owning bed and breakfasts and small hotels in emerging markets and make bookings directly. The kinds of places you’d never find on Expedia or Travelocity. Many of the accommodation providers had no access to the Internet. So the booking would come in by email and then the “last mile” would be covered by someone on a bicycle.

This is a beautiful idea because leisure travelers are always looking for unique experiences and this website allows them to discover accomodations that are off the main drag. Small hotels benefit because they get to tap the power of the internet to market themselves to a big pool of potential customers from the first world.

In addition, the Worldhotel Link is promoting sustainable tourism:

Finally, we aspire to connecting responsible travellers with accommodation providers committed to building a sustainable future for their business and their destination. We have created a means for acommodation providers to learn about how to differentiate their properties by adopting sustainable tourism initiatives (see here) and provided a number of sustainable tourism case studies.

The risks this hotel booking site face are not that different from traditional online travel agencies. For example, misrepresentation by hotels could lead to bad customer experience and lack of trust in the website. However, the good news is that the Worldhotel Link can learn from the experiences of traditional online travel agencies and institute functionality like ratings and feedback which will make them feel much better about their travel plans.

Global Warming Links

I’ve got a few global warming links for you guys. First is this Yahoo News story of scientists predicting that trees will grow in Antarctica within the century.

Next I’ve got this post on a venture capital blog that I thought was pretty interesting. As you know, more VC money has flowed into “green” technology this year than any other. The post has some links to venture capitalists talking about Global Warming. However, the most interesting piece is about

Richard Lindzen, professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT saying that “there is no scientific consensus on global warming”.

Also, check out Michael Crichton’s website as well. It discusses his previously held beliefs about the environment, and how doing research for a book on a global disaster got him to change his mind.

Undaunted, I began to research other kinds of disasters that might fulfill my novelistic requirements. That’s when I began to realize how big our planet really is, and how resilient its systems seem to be. Even though I wanted to create a fictional catastrophe of global proportions, I found it hard to come up with a credible example.

These links sure do provide a compelling argument.

Finally, here is a link to The Canary Project, an organization that’s trying to “photograph landscapes around the world that are exhibiting dramatic transformation due to global warming and to use these photographs to persuade as many people as possible that global warming is already underway and of immediate concern.”

Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System

Tsunami warning

This press release about the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System was just slashdotted.

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura announced that the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning System is up and running as scheduled in an address to the Executive Council of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (UNESCO-IOC)

The organization is still working some kinks out of the system but it’s great to see technology deployed that could help save lives in the future.

Real Estate In New Orleans Booms

New Orleans’ real estate market is going through a boom, as prices rise to above pre-Katrina levels. However, according to this NYTimes article, the boom is being led by investors and speculators who are placing huge bets that property values will come back .

The renewed interest in buying and selling and renovating has confounded some people who thought the flooding would cripple the housing market for years. But it is just one of many counterintuitive contrasts that are defining the area and making easy predictions unreliable.

Speculation might be frowned upon but it plays a vital role in the economic future of New Orleans because the city’s economic future is still uncertain. This uncertainty validates the role of speculation because if the property values can’t be sustained, those speculators will take a loss, and that loss will be a gain to the city of New Orleans.

The NYTimes also points out that this speculation activity also creates optimism– think Malcolm Gladwell’s Broken Windows Theory meets Post Katrina New Orleans.

So while speculators are sometimes frowned upon because they are making money from people’s misfortunes, their activity is economically important to the future of New Orleans.

Dell Raises The Bar For Computer Recycling Programs

NyTimes reports that Dell is modifying its recycling program so that anyone with an old Dell machine can have it recycled for free through Dell. I’ve covered computer recycling before on this blog, and one of the issues then was the boatloads of old parts ending up in dumps in third world countries. To combat this, the top US-based computer companies are pledging to disassemble old machines in the US.

Apart from the industry leaders, many computer and electronics companies are just starting to adopt recycling programs that meet standards set by environmental groups like the Toxics Coalition.

Today, most equipment intended for recycling in the United States is sent to developing nations, where few laws govern working conditions and environmental hazards. Dell, Apple and Hewlett-Packard, among others, have pledged to disassemble old computers only in the United States and to not ship hazardous material overseas.

It’s good to see the big boys setting the example here.

Larry Ellison Bucks The Trend, Decides NOT To Give $115 Donation

This news wouldn’t get much coverage at another time, but because of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet’s recent announcements, Larry Ellison’s decision to renege on a $115 million gift to Harvard is getting healthy coverage.

For a minute there, I thought that the charity trend would catch on with business leaders the way that driving Priuses and adopting children caught on with celebrities!

U.S. Charitable Giving Rises 6%

From Businessweek:

American contribution to philanthropies increased by 6.1% in 2005, according to the 2006 Giving USA report, released June 19. Nearly half of the additional funds were earmarked for relief for a host of natural disasters, most notably Gulf Coast hurricanes, as well as tsunami devastation in Southeast Asia and an earthquake in Pakistan.

One of the more interesting points is where the article highlights the relationship between media attention and charitable giving:

The Oct. 8, 2005, earthquake in Pakistan received far less media attention and funding, with $150 million donated from individuals, corporations, and foundations.

With the rise of blogging and citizenship media, it sounds like there is an opportunity here to do something about disasters that don’t get enough media attention.