The obvious is difficult
To prove. Many prefer
The hidden. I did, too.
I listened to the trees.

They had a secret
Which they were about to
Make known to me–
And then didn’t.

Summer came. Each tree
On my street had its own
Scheherazade. My nights
Were a part of their wild

Storytelling. We were
Entering dark houses,
Always more dark houses,
Hushed and abandoned.

There was someone with eyes closed
On the upper floors.
The fear of it, and the wonder,
Kept me sleepless.

The truth is bald and cold,
Said the woman
Who always wore white.
She didn’t leave her room.

The sun pointed to one or two
Things that had survived
The long night intact.
The simplest things,

Difficult in their obviousness.
They made no noise.
It was the kind of day
People described as “perfect.”

Gods disguising themselves
As black hairpins, a hand-mirror,
A comb with a tooth missing?
No! That wasn’t it.

Just things as they are,
Unblinking, lying mute
In that bright light–
And the trees waiting for the night. 


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This week in the UK, news of a £90 million Lottery win launched a media frenzy and a barrage of questions about what the winners would do with the cash – keep the day job or, go shopping? In 2007, Tullow Oil found a significant oil reserve under the sea off Ghana’s Gold Coast. The IMF estimates that the Jubilee Field will generate $30 billion of revenues by 2030 in a country where 30% of the population are living on less than $1.25 per day. The Lottery advised the UK winners to take an immediate holiday to consider their options. Kofi Annan, a native of Ghana and former UN President, urged Ghana’s Government to ask Norway for advice on what to do about oil. He did not suggest Nigeria.

people of ghana

There's more to oil than oil

Ghana was the first African country granted Independence and, by the Jubilee of 2007 had held 4 (soon to be 5) democratic elections against a backdrop of peace and stability; control of corruption; solid macro economic management; poverty reduction and an effective social contract. The capacity of any government to collect taxes and provide social services sums this stability up: in 1990 Ghana collected 12% of GDP and this had grown to 24% by 2005. Primary school enrollment over the same period grew from 54% to 65%. Will Ghana’s oil have a transformative or, a destructive impact?  The jury is out. (more…)

Cotton is natures pig. Everything can be used. First off, the fibres. These soft white threads – over 80% of the world’s natural fibres – cover the seeds and are strong enough to deal with our sweat, the odd spillage of red wine and, be washed and ironed hundreds of times. Even today, when synthetic fibres account for 60% of the market, cotton hangs on to the rest. Then, the seeds themselves. Rich in protein, they become a major part of oil used in foods. Then, what is left over finds itself in soaps or, as feed for cattle. Finally, what is left of the plant itself is used for animals to bed down on or, as kindling for a fire. Cotton planted in April is harvested in October and spun the following Spring. By the time this white gold is processed into fabrics, a full year has passed. Let’s look closer at the logistics dimension and how inclusive value chains can make a difference.

Cotton boll

More inclusive blue sky thinking needed ...

Look at the shirt or blouse that you wear and consider the story behind the label and its price. Can you imagine the farmer that seeded the crop and the inputs that were needed to protect this fragile crop? Do we know the impact that pesticides are having on the environment or, what the intense need for water throughout the process – some 2,600 litres are needed per shirt – is doing to water supplies? Are we clear that many farms are forced to use child labour to survive and, that loan sharks are behind much of the cash that finance the crop? There is a catalogue of social consequences that need to be understood and, a lack of transparency throughout the process – often caused by the agents at every step – that makes dealing with the economic, social and environmental challenges so difficult. (more…)

Tonight, Christine Loh – founder and CEO of Hong Kong based Policy Research Group Civic Exchange – gave the annual Peter Thompson lecture at the University of Hull Logistics Institute. The theme was Port cities and, the sustainability challenge. 

Takes your breath away

Using a Global League Table of the top ten container ports since 1998, Christine Loh highlighted the rise of Shanghai from 3 million to over 28 million teus (containers) by 2008. Other ports came from nowhere to join the elite. Then, showing photographs of the port proximity to living space, Public Health figures were introduced to beg the question – is this growth sustainable? (more…)

Distribution rarely makes an appearance on the main stage of the Globalisation debate. Specialist literature on logistics or supply chain management is confined to the margins and yet, few countries are in a so-called developed state and, the vast majority need a revolution in infrastructure and connectivity to have any chance of transforming their economies to reap the rewards of globalisation or, improve their local realities.

Paul Collier has tracked a number of African countries where natural resources have not generated the desired social dividends and many other commentators highlight countries torn apart by civil war or, natural disasters to be plagued by the dead hand of corruption. And yet, in some Report or, Strategic Plan somewhere visions of a viable market-led economy tied together by logistics languish. Let’s look at the journey that all such countries have to travel. 

All countries torn apart by war and many wrecked by natural disasters turn to military logistics to put them back together. Temporary bridges and makeshift roads are laid to pull together isolated communities and, lay out the network that can allow a second phase Humanitarian logistics effort to work. Now, the work of reaching the needy with food and the sick with medicines can begin. And yet, the next set of images that we see in this narrative is based on a business case from the developed world. It is as if we move from military and humanitarian logistics to a market led solution in one giant leap.  From mayhem to shopping mall is not the logistics next step. Mind the gap.

T L concept

Without T L there's a clear gap


In a speech on the Skills Gap and Manpower training at the CII Logistics Summit 2009, Rob Bell spoke of the elephant in the room. He was referring to the tendency to ignore those who live and work in the informal or shadow market when all of the great plans for India are being discussed. All talk of India shining and the demographic dividend must address those at the bottom of the pyramid and, the skills deficit.

Over 350 delegates heard him speak of the skills gap in India. “By 2022, India will need over 500 million skilled workers but, current skills training capacity is no more than an estimated 3 million trainees per year. This is a major skills gap in the Young Republic and a revolution in thinking and practice is needed to close the gap.”

Let's not forget the inclusive value chain

Let's not forget the inclusive value chain

Using examples from all sectors of Indian industry, he highlighted the massive infrastructure and sector based investments that are planned over the next 15 years. From Ports to Warehousing, the Logistics industry is being transformed. However, without the skills to deliver – these plans will stall. (more…)

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