New Year 2011 is here: The Future isn’t what it used to be!

2011 is here! We’re not ones to be easily affected by a mere landmark in our particular system of chronology, but as watchers of popular culture, we go along with the mood of the moment — if only to blend in with the planet’s natives…

As for our own mind (which is large and contains multitudes), Bill Watterson – the inimitable creator of Calvin and Hobbes – has once again captured my thoughts so well…and so colourfully.

The future isn't what it used to be!

As for resolutions, the only one I have is that I get to write more, and get read more widely. What more can a wordsmith ask for?

Besides, I tend to agree with Calvin when he says here…

Change? Why change?

Goodbye 2010. Welcome 2011. Hope you treat us better!

Eventually, all New Years go this way! Image from Imperfect Women website

Added on 1 January 2011: New Year 2011 is here: The Future isn’t what it used to be!

In transit are we all,
On this Third Rock from the Sun
Waiting for our onward journeys
From Here to Eternity.

Some of us, the steady types
Stay longer in this transit,
Welcoming dozens of years
As they arrive, endure and depart.

Some leave a mark
In the ‘sands of time’ as they say
Legacies of brick or flesh
Or just fond, loving memories.

But remember this, New Year:
There are a few of us,
Precious few, as it turns out,
Who don’t measure our worth
By the number of years
Whose passage we count.

We add life to years
Not simply years to life.

Read full verse in an earlier blog post, welcoming another year

Saving Biodiversity…from Evolution’s Most Dangerous Creature!

The United Nations designated 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity (IYB). It is a celebration of biological diversity and its value for life on Earth, taking place around the world throughout the year 2010.

The 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10) of the Convention on Biological Diversity is being held in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, from 18 to 29 October 2010.

To mark these twin events, we feature some short videos on biodiversity found online.

Official video of the International Year of Biodiversity 2010

This video, produced by our friends at in Geneva for the CBD Secretariat, is superbly crafted and engagingly presented. It visualises the core message of IYB 2010:
Biodiversity is life
Biodiversity is our life

Biodiversity Countdown 2010 video
In the puzzle of life each element is essential. Man has the power to do good, do bad, destroy or protect. What will you do?

Nature Our Precious Web: A photo montage

The exhibition is the result of a collaboration between Geo Magazine, GTZ, Countdown 2010, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Development Programme.

And finally, here’s an example of how not to produce a video on biodiversity. This 2006 film, made for the CBD Secretariat, has a good sound track and some excellent still photos. But it’s evidently been put together by a committee of UN agency officials and/or researchers who wanted to pack everything into 5 mins. The result – a wasted opportunity.

Back to school for 2010: Beware of friendly new-comers!

Schools across Asia are re-opening this week after the Seasonal holidays. In some countries, as in Sri Lanka, it also marks the beginning of a new school year (we summer-less folks follow the calendar year).

So I want to share this great cartoon, recently drawn by Nate Beeler, the award-winning editorial cartoonist for The Washington Examiner.

New kid on the block?

This is no laughing matter. According to WHO, as of 27 December 2009, worldwide more than 208 countries and overseas territories or communities have reported laboratory confirmed cases of pandemic influenza H1N1 2009, including at least 12220 deaths.

The WHO director-general, Margaret Chan, said on 4 January 2010 that the swine flu — influenza A(H1N1) — pandemic may not be conquered until 2011.

So watch out – but just how do we get kids to stop being…kids?

I still haven’t figured that out. Have you?

Blog post in May 2009: Good communications to combat swine flu?

TWTYTW: Our own (very subjective) list of best and worst of 2009…

All journalism is subjective; it’s just that some of us are better at disguising it! As we head for the end of 2009, we at Moving Images blog take one last fleeting, impressionistic, judgemental and, yes, darn too opinionated look at the past 365 days. That Was The Year That Was…and here’s our list of superlatives!

Best news and biggest relief (national): Sri Lanka’s nearly three decades long and brutal civil war finally ended in mid May 2009 – and not a moment too soon. It rightly created headlines around the world, and also made it to TIME’s top 10 news of the year. Within 24 hours of that much-awaited news, I wrote and published one of my most emotionally charged essays ever, Memories of War, Dreams of Peace. I probably spoke for a whole generation of Lankans: “As we stand on the threshold of peace, I am overwhelmed with memories of our collective tragedy. I hope we can once again resume our long suspended dreams for a better today and tomorrow.” With the hindsight of seven months, I still want to believe every word…although it’s become increasingly hard to cling on to such ideals.

Biggest disappointment (national): Ending the Lankan war entailed tremendous effort, cost and sacrifice, and we all knew that consolidating peace and restoring normalcy were going to be even harder – delivering peace dividends is no mean task. As weeks became months, our cautious optimism slowly turned into disappointment and dismay: it became clear that the triumphalist government was treating the historic ‘open moment’ simply as as blank cheque to do pretty much what it wanted. My May 19 essay on Dreams of Peace had ended with a question that resonated with millions: “Would our leaders now choose the Mandela Road or the Mugabe Road for the journey ahead?” Can we please ask that question again…? Hello, anybody listening?

Most evocative piece of writing: Without competition, that distinction goes to The Last Editorial by Lasantha Wickrematunga, the courageous investigative journalist (and de facto leader of the political opposition) in Sri Lanka, who was brutally slain on January 8 while on his way to work. That editorial, which appeared post-humously in his newspaper The Sunday Leader on 11 January 2009, embodies the best of Lasantha’s liberal, secular and democratic views. Nearly a year after the dastardly daylight crime, his killers have not been caught and independent media remains under siege even in post-war Sri Lanka.

Most memorable quote: While people like Lasantha articulated our cherished dreams for a truly pluralistic society, our billion+ neighbours in India have been building it for over six decades. It’s still a work in progress, and the ideals need occasional reiteration. This is precisely what classical dancer Mallika Sarabhai did when she ran as an independent candidate when India conducted the world’s largest democratic election in April-May. She lost, but wrote one of the most insightful pieces on what it means to live amidst the huge cultural, social and political diversity in India: “We are a salad-like melange of cultures and not a soup where all variations get reduced to a homogeneous pulp—this, to me, is our greatest strength.” (She inspired my own essay: Sri Lanka – Spice Island or Bland Nation?)

Biggest disappointment (global):
The UN climate conference in Copenhagen, held in December and officially dubbed COP15, ended up in what many activists felt was a cop-out. Greenpeace echoed the frustration of many when they said at the end of what was, at its start, billed as the ’14 days to seal seal history’s judgment on this generation‘: “Don’t believe the hype, there is nothing fair, ambitious or legally binding about this deal. The job of world leaders is not done. Today they shamefully failed to save us all from the effects of catastrophic climate change.” I was glad I wasn’t part of the mega event — I’ve burnt enough aviation fuel this year, but almost all events I participated in on three continents were more productive than the Danish debacle…

Biggest Under-achiever: If the world laboured a mountain and delivered a mouse in Copenhagen, the mid-wife of that process must surely have been the current UN chief Ban Ki Moon. More secretary than general, Ban is, in his own admission, the UN’s Invisible Man. All the top speech writers and PR agents in the world can’t animate this the perennially dull and dour diplomat. Not ideal change-maker when the world is racing against catastrophe. Kofi Annan, we miss you!

Most moving work of moving images: The world’s rich are having a party, and millions living in poverty are the ones footing the bill. This is the premise of Indian journalist and activist Pradip Saha’s latest film, MEAN Sea Level, which looks at the impact of climate change on the inhabitants of Ghoramara and Sagar islands in the the Sundarban delta region in the Bay of Bengal. I found it both deeply moving and very ironic. With minimal narration, he allows the local people to tell their own story. As it turned out, these testimonies were lost on the bickering politicians in Copenhagen…

Best media stunts: We are a bit divided here. At a time of ever-shrinking attention spans, it takes much creativity and guts to grab the cacophonous media’s attention, especially for a good cause. Two very different men succeeded where many have failed. In February Bill Gates, the world’s top geek now working for its meek, released some mosquitoes at the TED 2009 conference to highlight the continuing grip that malaria has on the developing world, especially Africa. In October, climate crusader President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives held the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting to remind everyone of the watery future that awaits low lying island nations like his when climate change rises sea levels.

Biggest Irony: NASA announced in November that an unmanned space probe that was intentionally crashed on the Moon had discovered the presence of ‘significant amounts’ of water there. That bit of scientific evidence cost US$79 million to obtain…and was not the most comforting news for a planet that rapidly running short of usable freshwater. In the wake of the Apollo Moon landings in the late 1960s, misguided voters in Sri Lanka elected a government that promised ‘to bring rice even from the Moon’. When might we hear politicians promise us water from the Moon?

Well, that’s it folks — the highs and lows of 2009 according to the Blogger-in-Chief and his team of elves here at the Moving Images Media Empire. We’ve waded through our several dozen blog posts to come up with the above, and make no claims for being fair, balanced or comprehensive…

Indeed, we hope you don’t agree with all our picks, and invite you to express alternative – even dissenting – views. All comments that are not outright libellous or blatantly self-promotional will be published.

We take this opportunity to thank each and everyone who read our posts over the year — and especially those who left comments, sometimes radically disagreeing with our views. We also reiterate our pledge to frustrate those few persistent detractors who keep demanding to see our nationalistic, religious or other credentials…

May the cacophony continue and intensify in 2010!