Friday, December 11, 2015

Underlying Methods

Contrasting Forms of Life 

"So you are saying that human agreement decides what is true and what is false?" – It is what human beings say that is true and false; and they agree in the language they use. That is not agreement in opinions but in form of life.” Wittgenstein PI 241 

  What follows will be a brief compare and contrast in the themes of the propositional attitudes of indoor air quality, the comparison lies in ‘developing forms of life and first-world forms of life'. In developing countries the issue of indoor air quality is much more serious than first-world concerns – while counties like Germany, France, and the USA have passed laws banning the volumetric usage of certain abstract scientific entities (VOCs) – championing science for the ‘cause' to determine what is good. Politicizing the research, approaching the problem backwards. 50% of the world’s population is using inefficient biomass (burnable tender) in rudimentary stoves to survive ordinary life. Exposure to indoor air pollution may be responsible for nearly 2 million excess deaths in developing countries and some 4% of the global burden of disease (Bull World Health Organ) – The most important thing to remember is the passing of a law does not necessitate a change in culture (drug laws being a glaring example) – while showing people new ways of living, adding to the depth and richness of life, does. 
Exploring the Method of the Kenya Smoke and Health Project

  Community participation was the driving force for this project and it is not surprising results far exceeded expectations – the problem was cultural in Kenya, an aspect of the way they lived (and have been living for many years) was damaging their health, however thru education and a methodical re-description in the cultural perspective action was realized. Now compare, that with the history of VOC legislation in the USA: we outlaw ozone depleting compounds, switch to alternatives which produce different VOCs that we later find conglomerate at ground level, begin the process of outlawing the volumetric usage of certain alternative VOCs – in response to this we go to still more alternatives which in many cases are not better from a factual standpoint  – methods used in Kenya did not go about like this. 

  Five common themes ran thru the method used by the Smoke and Health Project – (i) ‘That the community is the main actor in any development initiative’– (ii) ‘That the outsider’s role is basically supportive to the local efforts’ – (iii) ‘That the development activities should be oriented towards needs as perceived by the community’ – (iv) ‘That indigenous knowledge has an important role to play as a basis for action, support and strengthening’ – (v) ‘That the key challenge is to tap the potential interaction between indigenous knowledge and that of outsiders.’ 
  I show method here to tease out a contrast – if one can read (i-v) and agree that this is a reasonable approach, then ask why is it rarely employed domestically, how is the cultural shift present in the Kenya Smoke and Health Project not the same thing we are looking for? How does scaling the problem all of a sudden displace a viable method? How does the outsider (Science) seem to act so differently in the respective contexts? In short, the answer rather pessimistic  – perhaps the Kenyan people were more genuine than the first-world on this occasion?! 

     The community involvement and willingness to instill and uphold a practice was crucial. The goal of this post is to resonate and show how a small village in Kenya can understand and act on improving indoor air quality using (i-v) in ways that first-world attempt but many times fails, remaining unsuccessful in creating sustainable change change. Questioning and examining the underlying methods of approach is interesting and illuminating. 

More on the Kenya Smoke and Health Project: 

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