In 1980, Andrew Meldrum left his reporting job in southern California, sold his car, and packed his bags for Zimbabwe. The aspiring foreign correspondent was searching for that ever-elusive story: good news from sub-Saharan Africa. He was inspired by recent events in the southern African country formerly known as Rhodesia, which was moving from white minority rule to majority rule after nearly 15 years of civil war. It seemed like a promising place to spend a couple of years. “I found Zimbabwe to be a really exciting and positive place and I found that my work was growing as well,” recalls Meldrum, now 53. “So I just stayed and stayed and stayed.”
If you want to hear some tough talk about global warming, talk to an insurer. Take this recent statement by Richard Jones, the vice president for engineering of the Hartford Insurance Company. Climate change is real, said Jones. To me, proving that earths climate is changing from human actionsnamely global warmingis like statistically proving the pavement exists after you have jumped out a 30-story building. After each floor, your analysis would say, so far, so good, and then, at the pavement, all uncertainty is removed. Joness alarm over the impending climate catastrophe is not uncommon, even in an industry known for its buttoned-down, by-the-book image. As the cost of droughts, floods, wind storms, and other weather events linked to climate change multiply, insurers have taken a remarkably active role in speaking out about global warming.
For nearly a decade, Ross Gelbspan has watched global warming deniers generate a lot of heat, and little light. “First time around, they said global warming is not happening,” he says. “Then after the science became pretty powerful, they said, ‘Well it’s good for us.’ Now they’re saying that the impacts will be pretty negligible. They’re a moving target.” The former Boston Globe editor and veteran journalist first encountered the skeptics when he started writing about climate change in the early 1990s. Their arguments almost convinced him to drop the subject altogether. But he soon came to understand that global warming was not only real, it was perhaps the most important story of the day.
Heart of the Congo is a clear-eyed examination of humanitarian aid in action. In the aftermath of the five-year civil war that killed 3.5 million people, filmmaker Tom Weidlinger traveled to eastern Congo last spring to shadow a team of European and Congolese aid workers trying to create a measure of stability in a region that's been rocked by a century of exploitation, corruption, and bloodshed. It's a tall order, to say the least, and their success is measured in modest victories: opening a health clinic, saving an infant from dehydration, drawing a bucket of clean water from a new well.
On December 3, Dow Chemical "spokesman" Jude Finisterra appeared on the BBC to make an astonishing announcement: His company, now parent to Union Carbide, would mark the 20th anniversary of the lethal gas leak in Bhopal, India, which killed 20,000 and injured 120,000, by paying out $12 billion to the survivors—"simply because it is the right thing to do." Unbelievable? Sure it was. Within a few hours, Finisterra had been unmasked as an impostor, while the real Dow quickly reiterated that it wouldn't give a single rupee to the people of Bhopal—cementing its reputation as a corporate grinch.