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Science
A new study from the University of British Columbia has found light therapy to be effective in treating non-seasonal depression. “These results are very exciting because light therapy is inexpensive, easy to access and use and comes with few side effects,” says Dr. Raymond Lam in a statement, a UBC professor and psychiatrist at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. It is the first placebo-controlled trial that shows light therapy to treat depression not brought on by seasonal affective disorder – a type of depression associated with late autumn and winter caused by a lack of light. Lam and his colleagues followed 122 patients and evaluated whether light therapy improved their mood when it was used both with and without the commonly prescribed antidepressant fluoxetine. The research involved light therapy exposure with a fluorescent light box for 30 minutes soon after waking up every day for two months. A group of participants were given placebo pills and devices instead of real therapies. Researchers found those taking light therapy had improved mood and provided the most benefits taken alongside antidepressants. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability with one in 20 people suffering from the ailment worldwide. Medications alone are effective but only in about 60 per cent of cases, according to researchers. Lam says, “it’s important to find new treatments because our current therapies don’t work for everyone. Our findings should help to improve the lives of people with depression.”
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Technology
A study by the University of British Columbia says jealousy and self-importance drives Facebook users to portray their best selves through their posts. Researchers say this cycle of comparison with others leads to a decrease in metal well-being. “Social media participation has been linked to depression, anxiety and narcissistic behaviour, but the reasons haven’t been well-explained,” says Sauder School of Business Professor Izak Benbasat. “We found envy to be the missing link.” According to Benbasat, travel photos cause the most Facebook envy, pushing friends to posts their best pictures. He says the posts aren’t fueled by the need to compete, but rather the need to keep up appearances. Benbasat and his team of collaborators from the Sauder School of Business led the study. The team surveyed about 1,000 Facebook users from a German university then asked the students a series of questions about their Facebook habits – cross-referencing their responses with the feelings they reported when using the site. “Sharing pictures and stories about the highlights of your life – that’s so much of what Facebook is for, so you can’t take that away… but I think it’s important for people to know what impact it can have on their well-being,” says Benbasat.
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Environment, Politics
Thousands attended the Global Climate March in Vancouver filling the streets with messages to world leaders who have arrived in Paris. The UN climate summit kicks off on Monday where discussions on national limits of greenhouse gas emissions will arise. People began gathering in the early afternoon in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery then marched throughout the downtown core. Climate change activists held protests across many cities. Check out how some people described the events on Twitter:    
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Politics, IdeasXChange Hub Events

Note: From January until June 2015, our events were promoted under “Values in Perspective”. We have since changed our name to IdeasXChange.

On February 24, 2015, IdeasXChange launched its sustainability workshop series with over 30 participants and five well-respected community leaders as panelists. The theme of discussion: social sustainability.

About 30 participants including UBC students and community members gathered at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre to hear about what social sustainability means to some of Vancouver’s community leaders.

But what is social sustainability?

One of the most well-known definitions includes environmental, economic and social sustainability.

The concept of “social sustainability” encompasses topics such as:

Social equity – a state in which all members of a group or society have the same status in certain areas, including civil rights, freedom of speech and property rights among others.

Community development – a process where members of a community come together to take action and generate solutions to common problems.

Social capital – the expected economic or collective benefits from the preferential treatment and cooperation between people and groups.

Human rights – rights that are believed to belong justifiably to every person.

Labour rights – a group of legal rights relating to labour relations between workers and employers.

Panel Discussion: From addressing poverty to finding solutions

Five panelists addressed social sustainability from different perspectives – from working side-by-side with Vancouver’s poor population, to finding solutions through social enterprises and advocating for greater access to education and legal representation.

The panelists included:

Jeff Baergen – community and engagement director at the UGM – a charity organization in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Tara Taylor – Manager at Potluck Catering and Recipes for success – a social enterprise that provides opportunities for those who face employment barriers

Marcia Nozick – CEO of EMBERS – a social enterprise that offers economic and employment opportunities to individuals and advice for companies

Cherie Payne – a former Vancouver School Board member and advocacy lawyer

Patti Bacchus – an elected Vancouver School Board Trustee and active player in the field of local education

For information on our other workshops follow this link.

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Politics, Society, Features, Featurable

In Western countries, it has become commonplace or even trendy to consume so-called “superfoods” that developing countries produce and export. They sit on shelves in nearly every grocery store and their health benefits are well known to consumers. In particular, Western demand for grains such as quinoa and teff have exploded in recent years. But why? Superfoods are food products that are relatively high in nutrients. What drives Western demand for them? If you live in a developed country, it’s likely you’re well versed in, or at least conscious of the superfood conversation. They tend to be popular with vegans and vegetarians, lifestyle choices that have become more prevalent in Western culture, as superfoods are nutritious alternatives for meat products. As we become more preoccupied with making healthy food decisions, foods deemed “superfoods” are front and center. But there’s more to the equation than just demand – somebody has to meet those demands, and this responsibility falls upon the superfoods’ countries of origin.

Background on quinoa and teff and its impacts on countries of origin



Quinoa and teff are highly nutritious, gluten-free grains. Quinoa traditionally grows in Peru and Bolivia and is low fat, high in protein, and full of amino acids. Teff, which has 50% more protein, five times more fiber and 25 times more calcium than brown rice, hails from the highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea. With these stats, it’s no wonder that health-conscious Westerners covet them – consuming foods with these nutrient levels likely impacts our own health in positive ways (which is why demand is so high), but the impacts of our consumption on producing countries is another story altogether. While consuming superfoods like quinoa and teff may have positive health effects for Westerners, we can’t say the same for the health of the countries that produce them. In fact, the “Columbusing” of superfoods, or the “discovery” of these crops in developing countries, tends to benefit global consumers more than producers.

Quinoa industry damaging Bolivian development

Increased global demand – how much people desire a good as a whole – for quinoa spurred Bolivia to export higher volumes of the grain. While this increases Bolivia’s revenue and incomes of local farmers, it also causes the domestic price of quinoa to soar. In other words, while individual living standards of farmers have improved, it has become more difficult for the general population to afford quinoa, a staple in their diets. In 2011, a kilogram of quinoa cost $4.85 USD in contrast to $1 for the same weight of rice. The problems don’t stop there. In attempting to meet global demand, Bolivia faces pressure to allocate more land for quinoa production. If it follows through, Bolivia will in effect transform its agricultural portfolio into a monocrop of only quinoa. Without diverse agricultural production, Bolivia will become subject to volatile food prices and limited food security. If the price of quinoa plummets, its agriculture industry won’t bring in revenue; if it only produces one crop, Bolivia risks pest or disease infestation that can wipe out its only source of food, potentially resulting in famine.



Ethiopia’s teff dilemma

In recent years, Westerners have lauded teff for its nutritional value, so much so that the Ethiopian government decided to lift its ban on teff export with tight controls in place. Previously, there was a complete ban on raw teff export, with only processed teff in the form of injera allowed to leave the country. While this prevented the re-entry of teff into the Ethiopian market at inflated prices, the government and manufacturers were involved in the economic process, leaving farmers with little of their deserved revenue. Lifting the ban means Ethiopia needs to control price fluctuations. It hopes to do so by licensing commercial farms to produce teff for export to avoid flooding the market and bringing teff prices down. According to CEO of Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency Khalid Bomba, licensed producers will supply exports first, and then extend to small-scale farmers who comprise most of Ethiopia’s working population. The Ethiopian government’s hopes to meet both domestic and global demand will be tricky business. If it wants to engage in export, Ethiopia should first satisfy its own population’s demand. This involves increasing production levels by introducing modern farming techniques. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot of agricultural research on teff production, so Ethiopia must first figure out which modern farming techniques are best suited to teff. Another issue is other countries have successfully planted teff crops. In the United States, 25 states produce the superfood. Al Jazeera reports that because of such successful transplantation, Ethiopia is losing out on its staple crop. Perhaps the best way for Ethiopia to combat this loss is to capitalize on the fact that the quality and taste of foreign-produced teff can’t hold a flame to its own. If it manages to brand Ethiopian teff as a premium product, Ethiopia may be able to overtake its competitors.


Consequences of superfoods on health in developing countries


Let’s now consider the impact of Western demand for quinoa and teff on the health of Bolivian and Ethiopian populations. When goods become too expensive, consumers substitute their consumption of that good with cheaper alternatives. In Bolivia, people substitute less nutritious rice and noodles for quinoa. In Ethiopia, teff farmers are selling the bulk of their harvests instead of eating it to take advantage of high global prices. The consequence of these actions is rising malnutrition, especially in rural communities. In both Bolivia and Ethiopia, consuming more quinoa and teff can alleviate malnutrition, but this task competes with Western cravings.

What can we do?


This paints a fairly bleak picture of guilt. Evidently, Western eating habits are directly related to economic conditions and poverty levels in developing countries. How can we reconcile our health-conscious love for quinoa, teff and other superfoods with the adverse affects it creates for countries that produce them? One way is to practice ethical consumerism. Movements like Fairtrade aim to ensure local farmers receive fair payment for their work; purchasing Fairtrade products means more of your money goes to the producer rather than distributors or manufacturers. But this only solves half of the equation – how can we ensure that our consumption of superfoods doesn’t come with the price of malnourished communities who can’t afford the same product? This is a question of social and economic policy. We have seen how Ethiopia is taking measures to ensure domestic prices (the current price for teff in the economy) of teff don’t skyrocket. To see lower domestic quinoa prices, Bolivia may restrict exports or increase production (both of which will bolster domestic supply and push down price) or introduce some kind of policy that balances its exports with domestic concerns. It’s unlikely that Western demands for superfoods will cease or even plateau any time soon. Indeed, such demand can produce incentives for more people or countries to become involved in superfood industries and drive more efficient production. Taking this into consideration, the key lies in how, rather than what, we consume, and the ways in which we can all improve our consumer behaviour.

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