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by Rori Lynn
We don’t think we’re being controversial when we say war is a terrible thing. The effects are devastating and long-lasting. But sometimes, it shapes the world in ways you wouldn’t expect, sort of like when ...
The Rwandan Genocide Functionally Reversed Gender Discrimination
There’s no good way to set this up, so we’ll just say it: The Rwandan Genocide was a massacre that wiped out some 800,000 to 1 million citizens in just 100 days. These weren’t attacks with bombs and heavy artillery, either, but with knives and machetes – basically a systematic culling of the Tutsi minority by the Hutu majority. It was an extremely horrific moment in history.
Following the genocide, Rwandan society was utterly devastated. And with most of their men and boys dead, the social fabric had been destroyed. The remaining population was somewhere between 60 to 70 percent women, meaning they were the ones tasked with rebuilding society.
While women taking on traditionally male roles during wartime is fairly common, what’s extraordinary about Rwanda is that the roles didn’t revert back after the bloodshed -- they’re no longer second-class citizens. Pre-war, women couldn’t even own land or open a bank account without a man’s signature. Hell, if a guy committed adultery, they were charged about $1.50, whereas women could be punished with up to five months in prison.
And you thought your divorce was rough.
Roles that women would have never thought possible, like factory worker, were suddenly in huge demand, so they stepped up to rebuild their society. But it wasn’t just a workforce issue -- Rwanda needed politicians, too. So they tackled that problem with badassery, and as of 2018, the country boasts the world’s largest number of women in parliament at 65%, paving the way for swift and probably much-needed policy changes.
Today, young women in Rwanda have opportunities that were entirely unheard of just a few decades ago. And while the reason for this societal transformation is the absolute worst, the citizens responded in the most awesome way possible. Imagine a wildfire completely destroying an entire forest, and the people getting together and saying, “OK, but we’re going to go plant trees and make an even bigger forest, and also make it a wildlife refuge. Plus we’re installing a wind farm and creating a community garden. So there.”
To be fair, change is difficult and not without its problems, so the shift hasn’t been perfect. But still, Rwanda does carry one of the highest ratings for gender equality in the entire world.
War In The Middle East Has Displaced Air Pollution
Of all of the side effects of conflict in the Middle East, the one we didn’t expect was a reduction in air pollution, but it kind of makes sense. Research shows that in countries like Syria and Iraq, the level of air pollution has fallen quite dramatically since 2010, when the civil war first began, displacing citizens. Recent studies show the level of nitrogen dioxide in the air over Damascus has decreased by as much as 50% since the start of the Syrian civil war.
Conversely, in neighboring Lebanon, researchers noted a 30% rise in nitrogen dioxide, attributed to the influx of refugees. If you look at a map of the densities, you’ll notice that air pollution has dramatically decreased over the skies of Aleppo and Damascus, while the level over neighboring cities like Tripoli, Ramallah and Beirut have just skyrocketed.
What’s interesting in these figures is perhaps the most intuitive factor -- when 50% of the population flees a region, 50% of the pollution goes with them. However, displacement does not necessarily mean less pollution in the region overall -- it just sort of shifts. It’s been documented in war-torn countries like Iran that the carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, while nitrous oxide and sulphur dioxide have declined. Emissions are complicated, but war does show us something important about how pollution travels with humanity, for better or worse, especially in times of great crisis.
So the air is potentially cleaner in some places, but only because the people are fleeing in their vehicles to neighboring countries, contributing to the pollution there.
The Iron Curtain Left Behind a Massive Nature Reserve
For non-history buffs or those who buff other cultural matters, The Iron Curtain was a huge stretch of land dividing Europe into two halves -- a land border honored from the end of World War II throughout the end of the Cold War. The term was effectively coined by Winston Churchill, saying, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”
So Europe remained divided into a sort of East and West until 1991 when the Cold War ended and the One Party communist oligarchy in eastern Europe ceased, rendering the Iron Curtain effectively non-existent, leaving behind a thin strip of land stretching the length of Europe.
Two decades on, after the fall of East and West Germany, the so-called Iron Curtain has been naturally converted into what’s now called “The European Green Belt.” It’s hard to put into words just how starkly it stands out from the landscape around it, so here’s a picture instead:
Look how freaking green that belt is. Not even Hot Topic can compete with the greenishness of that belt. Home to hundreds of rare and endangered species, and coming in at 858 miles, it’s easily Europe’s largest nature reserve.
The First, Biggest Baby Boom Was Actually After World War I
“The Baby Boom” in modern context usually refers to the one following World War II. But there was an earlier baby boom that is far more emergent in terms of community resources. Babies born immediately after the first world war are now reaching their nineties, with the rate of people in the nineties skyrocketing worldwide in the last few years. With life expectancies on the rise, the need to care for increasing numbers of elderly people has become a humanitarian imperative.
1920 marked a surge in births so sudden, so big, that it remains the record year for babies in UK history to this day. Furthermore, the reported number of people over ninety has increased exponentially in the last decade in the United Kingdom, even seeing a boost of 14% in the last two years. Which is kind of a lot.
And they’re now adapting to modern society.
Unlike the sustained baby boom of the ’50s and ’60s, 1920 was a stark, one-off year. And we’re now in the December of the very first, largest, fastest boom in history -- the end of a generation born to the Great War. Which ... is kind of remarkable and depressing at the same time.
Pilates Came About Because Of War
Pilates is that form of proto-yoga that your friend’s mother does between her book club session and bragging about her veganism. It actually came before modern white people yoga, and was named after Joseph Hubertus Pilates, a German physical trainer, most noted for ... well, pilates.
As a sickly child, Pilates suffered from asthma, rickets, rheumatic fever, and other ailments. So he dedicated his entire life to strengthening his body in all manner of athletic endeavors, including diving, skiing, gymnastics and boxing. Eventually, he came to help others when he moved to England to become a self-defense instructor.
It wasn’t long before World War I broke out, however, that Pilates was labeled an “enemy alien” alongside other German nationals, and was interned until the end of the war. It was during said internment that he came to train other internees in his style of exercise, as well as creating methods for bedridden patients to work out. Using springs rigged to hospital beds, he innovated methods for patients to exercise against resistance, a style he later implemented into his equipment designs.
Notably, a flu epidemic broke out in England 1918, resulting in thousands of deaths. However, not one of Pilates’ trainees died, a fact he attributed to the effectiveness of his workout system.
This is what we call the “Screw You, Flu,” pose.
Following the war, he returned to Germany to continue developing what would become the foundational tenets of his fitness techniques. In 1925, he moved to the United States, conveniently meeting his future wife, Clara, on the boat to New York City. The guy apparently had a knack for turning questionable scenarios into awesomeness.
Upon arrival in New York, Pilates opened the very first Body Contrology Studio on Eighth Avenue in midtown Manhattan. For you normies, Body Contrology is Pilates’ crowning achievement in fitness, and serves as the all-encompassing categorization of his techniques.
So basically, the UK’s garbage treatment of German nationals during World War I resulted in the form of exercise your grandma can do from the comfort of her bed. That’s ... pretty cool, actually.