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Why the world needs waterless toilets

The other day I was opening a charity magazine and found an insert from Practical Action inside. It’s about toilets in Bangladesh and I’ve seen it a couple of times now. Before I start, a word of warning – if you’re reading this over lunch, maybe come back later. The story in the flyer is […]

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The world’s most under-achieving countries

This week I’m reading Duncan Green’s book How Change Happens, and in one section he talks about a campaigning politician in a place where change isn’t happening. It’s one of just three countries in the world that failed to achieve a single one of the Millennium Development Goals. I wonder if you can guess what […]

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The planet’s four quadrants

Last week I reviewed Paul Collier’s book The Plundered Planet, and I mentioned that he often has useful shorthand ways of explaining things. One of them that appears in the book is the four quadrants. The world has just short of 200 nation states, but Collier suggests you can divide them into four rough quarters: […]

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The Plundered Planet, by Paul Collier

A few years ago I read Paul Collier’s book The Bottom Billion, and when I saw that his follow-up was about sustainability, it went on that long, long list of things to read. A couple of weeks back I spotted The Plundered Planet on my brother’s book shelves. I borrowed it, and have now slightly […]

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Rwanda’s drone flights begin

In October 2014 I wrote about how drones could be a leapfrog technology. A year later, plans were unveiled for the world’s first drone port, to be build in Rwanda. A year on again, and Rwanda clocks up another milestone: the world’s first regular commercial drone flights are underway. When I last looked in on […]

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effective altruism

The world’s least glamourous charitable cause?

One of the lessons of Effective Altruism is that we can make a bigger difference by directing our donations towards overlooked causes. When a natural disaster hits the news, an appeal may often raise hundreds of millions of dollars. Other causes might get celebrity backing or be able to afford prime time TV or radio […]

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The circular economy in the developing world

The circular economy is usually described as a strategy for industrialised countries, often as a response to over-consumption of energy and resources. The name itself distinguishes it from the ‘linear economy’ that it replaces, re-using materials rather than consuming them. But what if you haven’t got a linear economy to replace? What relevance does the […]

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Reaching the unreachable with HoverAid

We were at the Greenbelt Festival over the weekend, and among the talking points was the presence of HoverAid, who were giving hovercraft rides up and down the ornamental pond at Boughton House. I was, I will admit, predisposed to like HoverAid. For one, they work with hovercraft, which are second only to jetpacks as […]

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prickly pear

The restorative power of the cactus

There are all sorts of innovative technologies and companies in Chris Goodall’s book The Switch, but there’s one in particular that I caught my attention: Tropical Power. They’ve developed an intriguing energy system that is based on cacti. It’s being tested in Kenya at the moment, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be applicable […]

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Building of the week: the half-house

Architecture is often the preserve of the elite. Many of the world’s leading architects work on flagship developments for the richest in society, and RIBA’s house of the year was built for Lord Rothschild, after all. Most of the rest of us make do with off-the-shelf boxes, so I’m always interested in architects that want […]

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