Lu Guang (卢广), freelancer photographer

Amazing Pictures, Pollution in China.

This collection of photographs is stunning, and mind boggling.  Lu Guang recently won the $30,000 W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography for his documentary project “Pollution in China”  at the 30th annual awards ceremony of the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund.  The event took place at the Asia Society in New York City on October 14, 2009.

Arghand Soaps

soaps1g.jpgArghand soaps are gorgeous to look at, beautifully scented, heavenly to use, and are carefully created by hand at a co-operative formed in Afghanistan to try and rebuild this war torn country. The artisan soaps resemble stones, and feel lovely in the hand. The lather is rich, creamy, and profuse. Update: This soap is incredibly long lasting! It does not disappear or dissolve quickly like so many handmade soaps tend to do, making it very economical.

Sarah Chayes, a former war correspondent for American national public radio, is the founder of the co-op. One of the co-operative’s main goals is to wean dependence on the opium poppy onto local licit crops which are used in the production of Arghand Soap. In a Guardian interview, Chayes is quoted:

in the long run, “this is the only way to beat heroin,” she says. “We have to re-weave the economic fabric of the country … so that people will have too much to lose from a return to war.”

“The Power of One: Making a Difference in Afghanistan“, World Vision’s page dedicated to Chayes and Arghand includes audio interviews. “Life After War” is a documentary film, shown on CBC Newsworld which chronicles Chaye’s journey.

The Arghand web site has a list of retailers in Canada, and the USA. I purchased my first order of Arghand soap via mail order from Planete Monde, a company in Montreal which has just begun to sell via their bilingual web site. My order arrived extremely quickly, it was well packaged, and the customer service was superb. I found it interesting to note that Planete Monde’s business partners opened their brick and mortar store after hearing Sarah Chayes being interviewed on CBC radio! Oresta’s Organic Confectionary in Ottawa also sells Arghand soaps via their web site. Oresta’s packaging includes a lovely little tag describing the Arghand Co-op and the ingredients, as well as a colourful photographic bookmark with the same (which makes for nice gift giving). Oresta’s service is extremely quick and friendly; I will be a repeat customer!

The New York Times has a blog written by Sarah Chayes: A Voice From Kandahar. At the time of this writing, the most recent post was dated August 1, 2006. The updated Arghand web site offers the writings of Cheyes from May 5, 2005 up to the present in a link entitled “Notes from the Field”; it is incredibly worthwhile and enlightening reading.  Update: Ms. Chayes now has a web site that consolidates much of her writing (unfortunately as of August 2011, the site seems to be gone).

A Musical Interlude…

One of our favourite quotations finishes the Nickelback video that used to be in this post (the video is chock full of film clips and trivia about several of our “heroes”):

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
~Margaret Mead