Welcome to Smacademia, the interdisciplinary online magazine.

Talking about Population

February 16, 2012
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Summary: The ‘population question’ comes and goes, but the issue never really goes away, and there is still a general unwillingness to talk about it. While I certainly don’t see it as the world’s greatest threat, I think the goal of a stable population across the world is an honerable one, and one unavoidable requirement […]

The point of no return

January 22, 2012
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Summary: Tipping points are when systems suddenly change very quickly to another state. In ecosystems this can be catastrophic, with examples including suddenly increasing rates of forest loss or climatic warming. Veraart et al.’s (2011) research, published in Nature, allows us to be aware of whether tipping points are being approached by monitoring how quickly […]

Equality: The Answer to Everything?

January 2, 2012
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Summary: The book The Spirit Level published in 2009 outlines strong empirical proof that greater income equality creates a better society. Greater equality is inversely correlated with a large number of social problems, and even rich people are shown to be better off in more equal societies. Causation is supported by reasoning and experimental evidence. […]

What makes a Climate Leader?

December 23, 2011
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Summary: Everybody has an influence on those around them, the only question is whether that influence is positive or negative. This article investigates the characteristics of climate change leadership, arguing that everybody has the possibility of being a climate leader. Power is not required for climate leadership, only the possibility to positively influence others around […]

We are the 99%, and we are to blame

December 10, 2011
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Summary: The slogan ‘we are the 99%’ lets us off too easily, and lays the blame on the 1%. In reality, it is our shared values that are to blame for the crises we are facing. Something about the Occupy Movement has been bugging me, and now I think I have come to realise what it […]

The Trouble with Philanthropy

November 20, 2011
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Summary: Private philanthropy (charity) is often presented as a free-market alternative to state welfare, and has been recently championed by the UK Conservative party as part of its ‘Big Society’. Charity is greater in countries where welfare provision is lower, but fundamental differences between charity and welfare make charity an inappropriate substitute for welfare. Philanthropy […]

Is Sustainability Relative?

October 17, 2011
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Appropriate strategies for sustainable development are context-specific, with different priorities depending on how far people are up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. A four point strategy for identifying approaches for sustainable development is outlined and the importance of regulatory ‘top-down’ intervention emphasized. The concept of sustainable development concerns the management of resources available to humanity. My […]

Ecotourism: The million star hotel in the desert

May 22, 2011
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Ateshooni is the name of a 400 year-old house located alongside of the remains of a citadel from the Sassanid Empire period in the oasis of Garmeh. The Sassanid ruled Persia from 224 to 651 A.D. This old house has been renovated by Maziar and his family, by using the same methods and materials as […]

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Posted in: Nature, Travel

What’s going on Mr. President?

May 15, 2011
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Coming to Malawi, you hardly fail to know the president. From a big board, His Excellency Professor Bingu Wa Mutharika warmly welcomes you when you enter Lilongwe from the airport. He kindly tells you to drive and arrive safely on the roads. His elegant image, printed on big billboards at several crossroads, announces the opening […]

Posted in: Politics

Belgian fries!

May 1, 2011
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Belgium. A tiny country in the middle of Europe with 9,5 million inhabitants or so. It is known for its complicated governmental structure and for recently having broken the world record for longest government formation period. On a brighter note, the country is also associated with chocolate, beer and waffles. One aspect of its culinary […]

Posted in: Food

Happiness and income comparisons: Biased methods consecrate a worldview

May 1, 2011
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A paper came out (May 2010) in the Economic Journal on the impact of income comparisons on subjective wellbeing. The researchers, Andrew E. Clark and Claudia Senik from the Paris School of Economics and the Institute for the Study of Labour at Bonn (IZA), analysed data on income comparisons from the European Social Survey, covering […]

Beyond Master and Slave?

April 24, 2011
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I recently re-read Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil (Jenseits von Gut und Böse). Nietzsche has been labelled by some as the philosophical founder of German fascism; glorifying strength and advocating racial superiority. My thoughts are that his morality is disastrously authoritarian, but he is certainly no crude racist and his writing style is a […]

Posted in: Philosophy

Deutsch and Scouse

April 2, 2011
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Was ist das? Some of you may know dass das (that that) means what is that. It’s German. Sounds kinda similar right? Well that’s no coincidence, because around 1,700 years ago English and German were the same language. Indeed English could be described as an island offshoot of German, though German as we knew it […]

Posted in: Linguistics

Did you know that ice is a mineral?

April 2, 2011
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We are used thinking that a typical mineral is a stone, something that is hard to break, like quartz or granite. Despite this common misconception, minerals however, are not just heavy stones. They are simply naturally occurring substances with a defined chemical formula and crystal structure. Thus even ice can be legitimately considered as a […]

Posted in: Music, Travel, Water

Sustainability in Theory

March 1, 2011
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What is sustainable development? It’s talked about a lot isn’t it? Well, though the concept is famously a little fuzzy, and tends to be bent (especially by politicians and businesspeople) to suit people’s ends, it does have relatively firm theoretical underpinnings in economic and philosophical theory. Most readers here are probably all sick to the […]

I’m not white, I’m yellow!

February 1, 2011
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I can’t quite work out what the feeling is that has been bothering me since I stepped onto the African continent. As I have travelled and spent some of my years in different countries around the world, the reaction of the local people have been completely different from what I experienced here in Ghana. For […]

Reclaiming the State

February 1, 2011
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In the US, right wingers use the rhetoric of liberty to argue against asking more from the state. They rhetorically position the state as in opposition to the people, rather than their collective organ for deciding the public good. This is hugely damaging to the people's capacity to use the state for democratic purposes. British PM David Cameron is trying to do the same - under the guise of the rhetoric of responsibility. Both are rhetorically powerful and are capturing the public imagination. Both are selective deployments based on lies.

Posted in: Politics

Water Crisis in Greece

February 1, 2011
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The timing just couldn’t have been better. My friend Jenni Nylander and I left for Greece for research as part of a course we were taking on the day right before the blizzards hit northern Europe. There were no strandings, no delays and the flight to Athens was uneventful. Off went the thick winter jackets […]

55 ° 47 ‘ to 51 ° 28’ North and 103 ° 43 ‘ to 10 9 ° 58’ East

January 1, 2011
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Imagine, that once you could manage to visit the place of your dreams – that is real happiness. Personally for me Baikal lake was such a place on the whole planet. This article will tell you some facts about this amazing lake so may be you can partly understand why it was a great wish […]

Posted in: Nature, Travel

Christian’s theory of relativity

January 1, 2011
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Just in case you are worrying, this isn’t about E = mc2 or anything vaguely  complicated.It’s a far simpler theory relating to inequality and its consequences, and in fairness, it isn’treally my own original theory, just my own way of arguing the point. On top of this, it isanother small example of one of the […]

Posted in: Economics