Watching the World

“Nine out of every ten disasters are now climate-related. Recorded disasters have doubled in number from 200 a year to more than 400 over the past two decades.”​—JOHN HOLMES, UNITED NATIONS UNDER-SECRETARY-GENERAL FOR HUMANITARIAN AFFAIRS AND EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR.

Human Rights for Indigenous Peoples

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007, has now been translated into Maya and Nahuatl, the two most widely spoken indigenous languages in Mexico. “At least 10 million people [in Mexico] are not aware of their rights,” says the newspaper El Universal. “Therefore, they often do not know that they are victims of abuse.” The translations, it is said, will be a tool for enabling these people to have their basic human rights respected.

Selling Virginity

The readiness of some Polish youths to have their first sexual experience for money shocks sociologists, reports the magazine Newsweek Polska. “A simple message reaches young people from all sides: everything is for sale,” says psychologist Jacek Kurzępa of the University of Zielona Góra. An increasing number are even auctioning off their virginity on the Internet. The price that young people pay for making such a choice, however, is high. “That decision has an impact on the rest of [one’s] life and the future relationship with a partner,” says Kurzępa.

The Amazon Once Hosted Urban Civilization

Vast areas of southern Amazonia believed to be virgin forests may once have hosted urban communities “surrounded by large walls.” This conclusion was reached by anthropologists working in Mato Grosso, Brazil. There they discovered “networks of walled towns and smaller villages” overgrown by tropical forest and covering an area of perhaps 11,600 square miles [30,000 sq km]. Some of the towns occupied 150 acres [60 ha]. A report by the University of Florida, whose anthropologists made the discovery, says that the settlements “date from around 1250 to 1650, when European colonists and the diseases they brought likely killed most of their inhabitants.”

Plants Aid Postoperative Recovery

It has long been suspected that contact with nature can reduce stress, produce positive feelings, and ease the suffering of the sick. New research confirms that belief. “Patients were randomly assigned to hospital rooms with or without plants during their postoperative recovery periods,” explains Science Daily. Patients who had plants in their rooms experienced less pain, needed significantly less pain medication, had better heart rate and blood pressure, and reported greater satisfaction with their rooms than their counterparts. Some 93 percent of those exposed to plants said that these were the “most positive” aspect of their rooms.