Naomi Buck is a Toronto-based freelance writer who lived for many years in Berlin. She has written for the Globe and Mail, The Walrus, Toronto Life, and Spiegel Online, and has been nominated for a National Magazine Award.

Do those with more give less?

Research shows that those in society with wealth to spare are stingy givers compared to those most in need of charity.

As insane as it sounds, much of my last year has been spent trying to get a crosswalk installed in front of the local public school. Drop-off at the school is a tangle of school buses and cars and with no nearby intersection or crosswalk, kids on foot or bike make their way across the street at their own peril. My suggestion that we offer these children (mine among them) safe passage has fallen on remarkably deaf ears. The city's police, traffic planning department and local residents deem a crosswalk unnecessary, ugly and inconvenient. Efforts to rally support among other school parents uncovered what many of them consider the root of the problem: French immersion.

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Debating population

There may be too many people on the planet, but population control alone won't save a species afflicted with overconsumption.

Twenty years ago, I and a small group of undergrads from various American universities flew into Lagos on a muggy January evening. We were the wide-eyed and eager dregs of an international exchange program - Nigeria, then under military dictatorship and benighted by corruption was the program's least popular destination.

Having made our way through Lagos' dingy airport, we were transferred by van to a hostel. As night fell we drove through a seemingly never-ending street market, a sea of Nigerians selling every conceivable thing out of baskets balanced on their heads, carts and mobile stalls. It was my first taste of the so-called Third World. I had never seen humanity on that scale and it was overwhelming.

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