Veganism – Trends; Pros/Cons

Chelsea Whyte. (27 Jan 2018). Living on the Veg. New Scientist. London. [Ms Whyte is the New Scientist Magazine Physics Editor; at the time of publishing she has reverted to veganism]In the UK and US at least, there is a reported uptrend in veganism (diet with zero meat or seafood and their derivatives). Between 2014 and 2017, there was a 4% increase in US vegan numbers. Actress Natalie Portman and sportswoman Serena Williams called themselves vegan. Across the Atlantic ocean, the UK Vegan Society opined an increase of more than 300% from 2006 to 2015. Most adherents range from 15 to 34 years old. (age distinction?)Arguments for veganism are consequentialist based; it implies great benefits.

  • [Global/Government]
    • Soy protein results in 4.5 time less deforestation compared to meat protein (thus soy protein substitution would alleviate global warming)
    • Better health via a vegan diet would cut global healthcare costs in excess of $1 billion/year (Marco Springmann, University of Oxford academic)
  • [Individual] Springmann also forecasted that becoming vegan would decrease 8.1 million ‘early deaths’ each year worldwide

On the negative side:

  • [Healthcare/Individual/Government] Vaccine creation/preservation require eggs or gelatin(e) [glutinous material made from animal tissue], no alternative has been found yet. (The author did not suggest stopping vaccinations because they are non vegan).

See also


Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Translation

Timothy Revell. (27 Jan 2018). Code-cracking AI could unlock robot translation. New Scientist. London. 

University of Toronto academics used an AI algorithm (list of rules to follow in order to solve a problem – See BBC Bitesize link) to solve two classic encrypted codes. The AI did so without prior knowledge of the languages. The method used is related to frequency analysis (FA). It taps on the fact that the most common letter ‘e’ appears in about 13% of all texts. Currently, programmers are researching ‘unsupervised translation’ which would do away with English as the intermediate language required for translation. This could possibly lead to quicker translation.

Media Supervision – Evidence

Chris Baraniuk. (27 Jan 2018). Child’s Play.  New Scientist. London. 

London School of Economics psychologist Sonia Livingstone feels it is impossible to filter out all harmful online content. This is attested by a 2017 survey of more than 500 children where filtering efforts failed to reduce the probability for viewing negative material. She proposes parent-child discussions on the content when the children “are ready”.

Lifestyle, not medicine, for well-being

Examine the assertion that lifestyle, instead of medicine, is decisive in achieving well-being. (paraphrased – 2010 GCE A Level General Paper 1)

=> Take note, the below should be not taken as a substitute for consulting trained and qualified medical professionals such as doctors. 

=> Related GCE O Level and NA Level essay questions would be proposed at the end of this post

Sample body paragraph [each paragraph must discuss both lifestyle and medicine]

It is posited that medicine is vital for restoring mental health. When symptoms get out of hand, medications become a solution. Sarah Slade, trauma specialist and owner of Willow Tree Counseling in Clarksville (United States) voiced that medicine can act as a temporary tool to get patients back on track to recovery. However for some, this becomes a diversion toward long term decline. Medications after all can backfire. An American CBS News article cited a study from the journal <Frontiers of Psychology> that  anti-depressant users were almost twice as likely to have future bouts of depression than non users. In addition, there is the risk of antidepressant addiction. American and Danish researchers in recent years have raised alarms over this. Lifestyle strategies would have little of these drawbacks. Approaches such as hobbies and exercise have helped people cope with bipolar disorder (the afflicted experience periods of intense low mood but also periods of elation and increased energy which can lead to impaired judgement and risky behaviour). Studies quoted from the US National Library of Medicine suggest that exercise relieves depression. Similarly, patients with bipolar disorder are advised to avoid shift work to ensure proper and adequate sleep; and to follow regular routines instead. Based on the above, it appears that lifestyle remedies are, in general, both safer and more effective in comparison to medications for the attainment of good mental health.

O Level How far is it true that some teenagers live unhealthily? Provide rationale for your views. (paraphrased – 2016 Paper 1)

NA Level – Some people claim that technology is detrimental to the health of youths. What is your perspective on this? (modified – 2016 Paper 1)

Evidence Note – Poverty

Fadumo Diriye. Poor People Aren’t Poor Because They’re Lazy. 25 Jan 2015. Huffington Post Canada.

  • [Canada]
  • Canada, despite developed country status, had 3.5 million people living in poverty — 637,000 were children
  • 40% of the poor were disabled/handicapped, and were more likely to be unemployed
  • About 770,000 poor people relied on monthly food banks
  • The article indicated a rising trend of poverty within Canada (in the short term)

Malaysians still struggle on poverty line. Stephanie Scawen. 7 Feb 2014. Al Jazeera.

  • [Malaysia]
  • More than 60% of the country lived on less than SGD (Singapore Dollar) $1600 per month. Poverty was worse in rural areas, where the figure was 85% instead
  • The United Nations proposed that SGD $1000-1200 per month was generally considered as an acceptable income level for survival

Most Republicans think poverty caused by laziness, new poll finds. 30 Jan 2014. Morgan Whitaker. MSNBC.

  • [United States – US]
  • 51% American Republican (party members) tended to attribute poverty to laziness while Democrat (party members) attributed poverty to external circumstances beyond one’s control
  • Republicans believed that wealth came from hard work. More Democrats thought that this came from unfair advantages. For instance, 63% of Democrats suggested that the US economic system favoured the wealthy
  • Across the board (including Independents), 65% believed economic inequality intensified over the last decade (possible trend)
  • The poll was done by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY (news organisation); it surveyed 1,504 adults

Education – Door out of poverty? Hmmm…

Yes, it plausible with technical and pre-university education. According to the organisation, Canadian Feed the Children <Breaking the cycle of poverty with education>, (last updated 2016):

  • A single year of primary school increases wages earned later by 5 to 15 per cent for boys and even more for girls.
  • For each additional year of secondary school, an individual’s wages increase by 15 to 25 per cent.
  • No country has ever achieved continuous and rapid economic growth without first having at least 40% of its adults able to read and write. [Research has to be done to corroborate this.]

Education enables farmers to utilise new farming techniques and technologies. World Bank research found that farmers with at least of four years of primary education were able to improve productivity by an average of nearly 9%. This improves family finances and food security as hungry children/workers have poor concentration and lower efficiency respectively. (The latter might lead to unemployment.) They are also less prone to illnesses originating from undernourishment. This way, excess healthcare costs are avoided. Hence, technical pre-tertiary is a major avenue to escape from poverty.

Body Paragraph against

Ironically, education may be the exact reason why many students remain poor. Due to the immense and overwhelming debt of financing their tertiary education, students remain hopelessly stuck in the poverty cycle. An article from Consumer Reports, entitled: Student Debt – Lives on Hold (28 Jun 2016), 42 million Americans have incurred $1.3 trillion in student debt. This came about with decreased government funding, hiked up tuition fees, and the encouragement of private sector education loans. Some like Saul Newton had to enlist as a soldier (and fight in Afghanistan) to pay his school bills. Furnished with idea that college would help them live better material lives, a significant number ended up in a debt nightmare instead. Thus, the argument that education breaks people out of poverty is utterly wrong in this circumstance.

Another interesting article: We’re so well educated – but we’re useless. (25 Feb 2013). The Guardian.

Migration – Yes or No: A few thoughts

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) site <Learning to Live Together>, a migrant is defined as:

“any person who lives temporarily or permanently in a country where he or she was not born, and has acquired some significant social ties to this country.”

Six types are listed:

  • Temporary labour migrants (also known as guest workers or overseas contract workers)
  • Highly skilled and business migrants
  • Irregular migrants (or undocumented / illegal migrants)
  • Forced migration
  • Family members
  • Return migrants

Body Paragraph For

States should actively invite skilled or wealthy migrants. These persons with their experience, expertise and contacts would be able to aid the development of their domiciled country or sustain its prosperity.  In the global war for talent, Singapore’s Ministry of Health planned to encourage more overseas-trained Singaporean medical doctors to return home. Top Singaporean scientists working overseas have also been encouraged to come back, with the lure of full funding support for research work and help in setting up laboratories at universities here. This was also trumpeted by Indian business leaders like Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries in 2017. He stated: “It is high time that our brightest and best brains work for the benefits of India and Indians… Some of our brightest people are working outside the country and by whatever faith if they are brought back to this country, and they work for our country, they work for (the) 1.3 billion and they work to improve their lives and put together a new developmental model.” Indeed, skilled reverse migration in this instance should be encouraged especially when such persons have long term stakes in their countries as opposed those who would leave in due time.