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Letter from Worldcrunch Editor Jeff Israely

How we see the world, and how you can help

Letter from Worldcrunch Editor Jeff Israely
Just the right touch
Jeff Israely

I try to keep both my badgering and philosophizing to a minimum. At least in public. But I am long overdue to talk to you about what we're doing at Worldcrunch, where we've come from and where we hope to go. And right now, the moment is ripe.Our website will soon be celebrating its second anniversary. We are not quite grown-up, but we are growing up fast, and neither our responsibilities nor ambitions are getting any smaller.

HOW WE GOT HERE

Worldcrunch was born with a pair of parallel convictions: 1) more than ever, what's happening across the world shapes our lives as much as what happens around the corner 2) economic and technological changes in the news industry require whole new ways to cover (and discover) that world.

The Internet's ability to connect people and spread information farther and faster is an immensely powerful new force, and stands at the very heart of what Worldcrunch is about. But this same digital revolution also produces a perilous churn of often unreliable and regurgitated information that offers more clutter than clarity, noise instead of news, as great stories go untold in the search for the clickbait of the moment.

Cartagena, Colombia - (szeke)

If you are reading this, you probably share our basic belief that professional journalism, perhaps more than ever, still holds a fundamental role in keeping us informed. But with the economics of new technology upending the news industry's traditional business model, the most basic structures for delivering information are coming undone. In some ways, this is creating positive change.

But for the expensive task of foreign coverage the order of the day has been drastic cuts – as more and more top news organizations are simply abandoning original reporting from abroad.

WHERE TO NOW?

Starting two years ago, we saw a different way. We began to build a new digital news source based on a very simple idea borrowed from magazines in places like France, Italy and Japan: scour the international media for the top articles, smartest analysis, the most memorable storytelling… and deliver it as swiftly, accurately and elegantly as possible into the language (English, in our case) of your readers.

The beauty in the concept is twofold: tapping into all the earth's languages allows us to discover great stories in their own right; while the breadth of international sources offers a unique, and truly global perspective on our world.

So we set out to create a network of partnerships with the world's top publications, and build a global team of experienced journalists, translators, and editors to help invent a new way to deliver the world's best stories in smart, sharp English.

While ours was not the kind of website to explode with millions of readers overnight, we saw early on that we had something worthwhile, engaging, unique – and the best proof is all of you, part of a growing base of loyal readers.

Still, from the beginning, we knew it was not a simple path to ensure Worldcrunch as a sustainable business enterprise and lasting source for news. When quality matters, it comes with real costs that don't ever disappear.

WHAT YOU CAN DO?

About a year ago, we started talking seriously about implementing some kind of premium paid offer for our loyal readers and supporters. We considered everything from voluntary payments to an all-or-nothing paywall. We watched as new models began to be implemented both at the world's biggest news organizations and the smartest independent sources, and it became clear that quality news outlets of all shapes and sizes could begin to turn to readers to help sustain their operations.

We also conducted a reader survey, which gave us important feedback on this and other crucial aspects of what we do at Worldcrunch.

Shanghai, China - (d. FUKA)

Once we had decided to move forward with a premium offer, we were lucky to find Tinypass, the best new company around in this space, partnering up with them to build a system that is both secure and user-friendly.

Starting in the next few weeks we will activate this premium offer, what is called a "metered model," designed to allow the widest audience possible to get to know us, while asking our regular readers to pay for full access after they've reached a fixed number of articles (15) each month.

We have timed the introduction of our premium offer with a series of major improvements to the Worldcrunch service for readers. First off, we are proud to launch our first-everiPhone and HTML5 apps, which are available now; those customized for Android and iPad will be released very shortly. Over the past year, we have added a dozen new source partners, expanding coverage from publications in Morocco and Poland, China, the United States, Brazil and beyond. More such partnerships are on the way.

Worldcrunch - all news is global from Worldcrunch on Vimeo.

So before we officially launch this next chapter for Worldcrunch, we are first coming to you, our earliest supporters, to urge you to subscribe now. There will be a two-month trial period at 99 cents, after which you can choose one of three options: $10/month, $48/six months, $84/year.

There is, we hope, something you value in what Worldcrunch delivers. We know it is something you can't find anywhere else. With your help, we will continue to work as hard and reach as wide as we can to break down old barriers of language and culture and geography to help us look with new eyes upon the world we all share.

As always, we'd love to hear from you with any feedback on where we've been, and where we're going.

But first… please support us by subscribing now to get full premium access to Worldcrunch!

All my best from Paris!

Jeff

Worldcrunch Editor

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Green

Ecological Angst In India, A Mining Dumpsite As Neighbor

Local villagers in western India have been forced to live with a mining waste site on the edge of town. What happens when you wake up one day and the giant mound of industrial waste has imploded?

The mining dumpsite is situated just outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat

Sukanya Shantha

BADI — Last week, when the men and women from the Bharwad community in this small village in western India stepped out for their daily work to herd livestock, they were greeted with a strange sight.

The 20-meter-high small hill that had formed at the open-cast mining dumpsite had suddenly sunk. Unsure of the reason behind the sudden caving-in, they immediately informed other villagers. In no time, word had traveled far, even drawing the attention of environment specialists and activists from outside town.

This mining dumpsite situated less than 500 meters outside of the Badi village in the coastal state of Gujarat has been a matter of serious concern ever since the Gujarat Power Corporation Limited began lignite mining work here in early 2017. The power plant is run by the Power Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Limited, which was previously known as the Bhavnagar Energy Company Ltd.

Vasudev Gohil, a 43-year-old resident of Badi village says that though the dumping site is technically situated outside the village, locals must pass the area on a daily basis.


"We are constantly on tenterhooks and looking for danger signs," he says. Indeed, their state of alert is how the sudden change in the shape of the dumpsite was noticed in the first place.

Can you trust environmental officials?

For someone visiting the place for the first time, the changes may not stand out. "But we have lived all our lives here, we know every little detail of this village. And when a 150-meter-long stretch cave-in by over 25-30 feet, the change can't be overlooked," Gohil adds.

This is not the first time that the dumpsite has worried local residents. Last November, a large part of the flattened part of the dumpsite had developed deep cracks and several flat areas had suddenly got elevated. While the officials had attributed this significant elevation to the high pressure of water in the upper strata of soil in the region, environment experts had pointed to seismic activities. The change is evident even today, nearly a year since it happened.

It could have sunk because of the rain.

After the recent incident, when the villagers raised an alarm and sent a written complaint to the regional Gujarat Pollution Control Board, an official visit to the site was arranged, along with the district administration and the mining department.

The regional pollution board officer Bhavnagar, A.G. Oza, insists the changes "aren't worrisome" and attributes it to the weather.

"The area received heavy rain this time. It is possible that the soil could have sunk in because of the rain," he tells The Wire. The Board, he says, along with the mining department, is now trying to assess if the caving-in had any impact on the ground surface.

"We visited the site as soon as a complaint was made. Samples have already been sent to the laboratory and we will have a clear idea only once the reports are made available," Oza adds.

Women from the Surkha village have to travel several kilometers to find potable water

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

A questionable claim

That the dumpsite had sunk in was noticeable for at least three days between October 1 and 3, but Rohit Prajapati of an environmental watchdog group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, noted that it was not the first time.

"This is the third time in four years that something so strange is happening. It is a disaster in the making and the authorities ought to examine the root cause of the problem," Prajapati says, adding that the department has repeatedly failed to properly address the issue.

He also contests the GPCB's claim that excess rain could lead to something so drastic. "Then why was similar impact not seen on other dumping sites in the region? One cannot arrive at conclusions for geological changes without a deeper study of them," he says. "It can have deadly implications."

Living in pollution

The villagers have also accused the GPCB of overlooking their complaint of water pollution which has rendered a large part of the land, most importantly, the gauchar or grazing land, useless.

"In the absence of a wall or a barrier, the pollutant has freely mixed with the water bodies here and has slowly started polluting both our soil and water," complains 23- year-old Nikul Kantharia.

He says ever since the mining project took off in the region, he, like most other villagers has been forced to take his livestock farther away to graze. "Nothing grows on the grazing land anymore and the grass closer to the dumpsite makes our cattle ill," Kantharia claims.

The mining work should have been stopped long ago

Prajapati and Bharat Jambucha, a well-known environmental activist and proponent of organic farming from the region, both point to blatant violations of environmental laws in the execution of mining work, with at least 12 violations cited by local officials. "But nothing happened after that. Mining work has continued without any hassles," Jambucha says. Among some glaring violations include the absence of a boundary wall around the dumping site and proper disposal of mining effluents.

The mining work has also continued without a most basic requirement – effluent treatment plant and sewage treatment plant at the mining site, Prajapati points out. "The mining work should have been stopped long ago. And the company should have been levied a heavy fine. But no such thing happened," he adds.

In some villages, the groundwater level has depleted over the past few years and villagers attribute it to the mining project. Women from Surkha village travel several kilometers outside for potable water. "This is new. Until five years ago, we had some water in the village and did not have to lug water every day," says Shilaben Kantharia.

The mine has affected the landscape around the villages

Sukanya Shantha/The Wire

Resisting lignite mining

The lignite mining project has a long history of resistance. Agricultural land, along with grazing land were acquired from the cluster of 12 adjoining villages in the coastal Ghogha taluka between 1994 and 1997. The locals estimate that villagers here lost anything between 40-100% of their land to the project. "We were paid a standard Rs 40,000 per bigha," Narendra, a local photographer, says.

The money, Narendra says, felt decent in 1994 but for those who had been dependent on this land, the years to come proved very challenging. "Several villagers have now taken a small patch of land in the neighboring villages on lease and are cultivating cotton and groundnut there," Narendra says.

They were dependent on others' land for work.

Bharat Jambucha says things get further complicated for the communities which were historically landless. "Most families belonging to the Dalit or other marginalized populations in the region never owned any land. They were dependent on others' land for work. Once villagers lost their land to the project, the landless were pushed out of the village," he adds. His organization, Prakrutik Kheti Juth, has been at the forefront, fighting for the rights of the villages affected in the lignite mining project.

In 2017, when the mining project finally took off, villagers from across 12 villages protested. The demonstration was disrupted after police used force and beat many protesters. More than 350 of them were booked for rioting.

The villagers, however, did not give up. Protests and hunger strikes have continued from time to time. A few villagers even sent a letter to the President of India threatening that they would commit suicide if the government did not return their land.

"We let them have our land for over 20 years," says Gohil.

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