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The Never-Ending Conflict 

What started as a group of children spreading politically motivated graffiti has snowballed into one of the world’s most harrowing and unstoppable conflicts to date.

According to the United Nations, more than 400,000 lives have been lost since civil unrest first broke in 2011. To add to these figures, it’s reported at least 6.3 million people are displaced within the war-stricken nation, including the lives of innocent children, pregnant women, the sick and the elderly.

Countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt have opened their borders to the people of Syria, with at least 5.2 million individuals reported as refugees [UNHCR]. Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany and other western countries have also provided a level of support. However, for citizens and families left within Syria, every day continues to be a fight for survival. Air strikes and battlegrounds all but too much of a regular occurrence, with no end in sight.

Want to learn more about Syria’s civil unrest? Read ‘A Lost Generation’ via Rarlo Online.


What You Need To Know

You have probably heard something about it in the news, but what do you really know about Yemen’s famine crisis?

Although Yemen has been vulnerable for years, since conflict begun between government and non-government forces in 2014, the nation has experienced one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. The result: millions of people have been forced homeless, displaced and injured, without any means to basic sanitation, supplies and medical assistance. Outbreaks of life-threatening diseases including cholera are rising by the minute, with at least 540,000 suspected cases reported, and more than 2,000 associated deaths in the last two years alone [OCHA].

According to the United Nations, 19 million individuals—almost 70% of the country’s population—are facing a life-or-death situation every single day. And, if not quickly provided with humanitarian aid, clean water, food and medicine, the death toll will only continue to rise.


Who Is Rohingya?

Every day we are waking up to a more gruesome, more harrowing story about Rohingya. The question is, who makes up this ethic minority, and why do they fear their lives?

Descendants of muslim migrants from India and China, the Rohingya has been known to live in the predominantly buddhist state of Myanmar (also known as Burma) since the 12th century. Although some would say the ethic minority has never been treated equally, since the 1970s Rohingya has been at the centre of numerous violent attacks, instigated by native buddhists and Myanmar security forces. These actions have led the United Nations, among many other international human rights organisations, to describe Rohingya as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

Over the last 40 years, the Myanmar government has stripped Rohingya of their citizenship, homes, voting rights and basic freedom, not to mention a dire lack of health care and fundamental sanitation.

Learn more about the Rohingya crisis via the online addition of Rarlo Magazine.


Global Pollution

The World’s Biggest Killer


The average human takes 16 breaths per minute, 960 breaths an hour and 23,040 breaths a day. So, what if you knew the air we are breathing could prematurely end your life?

In a breakthrough, global analysis [The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health] scientists have named global pollution as the world's biggest killer, with more than nine million people dying in 2015 as a result. To put that into perspective, that figure is the same as 16% of all annual recorded deaths. The study suggested toxic air, water, soil and workplaces are among some of the most worrying finds, and should be held collectively accountable for diseases that kill 1-in-6 people in the world. The authors of the report suggested “pollution endangers the stability of the Earth’s support systems and threatens the continuing survival of human societies.”

In 2016, the World Health Organisation [WHO] released a new report that found “98% of cities in low and middle-income countries, with more than 100,000 inhabitants, do not meet WHO air quality guidelines”.

Read more about this alarming environmental issue in the next addition of Rarlo Magazine.

The Amazon

Day-By-Day Destruction

The Amazon rainforest is the planet’s largest ecosystem, home to thousands upon thousands of plants, bird species, fish, mammals and insects—not to mention more than 400 indigenous tribes.

Also referred to as the lungs of Earth, the Amazon produces more than 20% of the world’s oxygen—however this is all about to rapidly change, thanks to that little word ‘deforestation’. Since 1970, when the Brazilian government first began chopping down the ecosystem in trade for roads, more than 20% of the Amazon rainforest has been eradicated. Most of this land has been destructed to make way for mass agricultural plantations, including the production of soy and cattle farming.

Although deemed illegal, the logging trade plays a huge part in the destruction of the rainforest, with company’s such as Agropecuaria Santa Efigenia Ltd earning more than $7 million a year from illegal timber [Greenpeace International]. Of course, the Brazilian government has committed to ‘zero illegal deforestation’ by 2030—the question is, will it be too late?

The War

On Plastic Waste

Good news Queenslanders—the government has officially banned the bag.

Coming into effect mid 2018, this new law will see supermarket giants, including Coles and Woolworths, embracing reusable alternatives, rather than the traditional single-use carriers. New South Wales is the only Australian state that is yet to ban the bag, with Victoria being the most recent game changer.

Nationally, an estimated five billon plastic bags are handed out every year, with more than one trillion used worldwide. According to Clean Up Australia, Australians are the world’s second biggest producers of waste. In fact, it’s estimated that we individually send more than 690 kilograms of rubbish to landfill every year. To find out more about the world’s war on plastic, flick over to A Plastic Pandemic.


A Lost Generation

A Lost Generation

The Youth of Syria

By Eleanor Knight


Imagine a world where no medical care exists. A world where you are bombed while trying to further your education. A world where you constantly fear for your life. The children of Syria know this reality all too well.

“Children have been a consistent theme running through the conflict. They’ve been made homeless, they’ve been made orphaned, they’ve been killed, they’ve been wounded, they’ve been deprived of an education, they’ve been deprived of healthcare and even more so, they’ve suffered enormous psychological trauma,” said Ian Pannell, BBC’s award-winning Emmy journalist, who has visited Syria dozens times since the crisis first broke in 2011.

The youth of Syria has been at the forefront of the civil unrest right from the beginning, when seven young boys from the suburb of Deraa spread anti-government graffiti on their school walls. The words sprayed ‘Ejak el door ya doctor’ (it is your turn, doctor) were targeted towards President Bashar Al-Assad, who trained as a ophthalmologist in London, before accepting the office role following the death of his father in 2000.

Little did these boys know their actions that day would spread into a national revolution, starting with peaceful protests and ending in complete devastation.

At the start of the revolution, everyday Syrians would join after Friday midday prayers to chant and dance through the streets. Alongside their mothers, fathers, aunties and grandparents, they would demonstrate against their government and against their leadership—a movement that had never been witnessed before.

Years on, peaceful protests and calm demonstrations are just things of the past. From the young to the elderly, the population constantly fears for their life, with chemical attacks and air strikes being all too much of a regular occurrence.

“I remember being up on a roof watching a battle going on in the distance with a few locals, and they saw a rocket being fired over a hill leaving a very distinct smoke. They all immediately panicked, saying ‘oh my God, it’s a chemical weapon’ and started running around. Of course, it wasn’t but they were already afraid of it,” said Pannell.

A collapsed system


According to the United Nations, more than 70-per cent of all national schools are deemed inoperative, with over 2.1 million out-of-school children inside Syria. To add to these figures, it is estimated that 700,000 Syrian children in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt are without any means to education.

With no standard schooling available, a traditional education is something of the past. A girl named Nadia, told the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, “…our lives are destroyed. We are not being educated, and without education there is nothing. We are heading towards destruction.”

For many children left inside Syria, the only prospect of education comes from local mosques that have opened their doors to the young. However, there is concern that children who attend these educational sessions are solely taught strict religious study, rather than extra-curricular activities such as maths and languages.

“[Within Syria] you’ve got Christians, Muslims, Kurds, Armenian’s, Turkmen’s, Drew’s and the list goes on. To have one religion that is teaching the majority of the child population, with a very narrow worldview has potentially dangerous long-term consequences,” said Pannell.

And it is not just the educational sector that has collapsed within Syria—the health care system continues to dive into destruction. Many hospitals in rebel-enforced areas have suffered deliberate bombing by the opposition, leaving civilians, including thousands of innocent children fighting for their lives.

According to the organisation I Am Syria, there has been more than 470,000 deaths among the population, with at least 55,000 of those being children since the unrest first broke in 2011.

“The conflict in Syria has caused Syrian girls and boys of all ages to suffer immensely, both physically and psychologically. Children have been wounded or killed by sniper-fire, rockets, missiles and falling debris. They have experienced first-hand conflict, destruction and violence,” said UNHCR, in their 2013 report ‘The Future Of Syria – Refugee Children In Crisis’.

With constant worry they will be next, there has been an unprecedented rise in the number of pregnant women going into premature labour. Born into these extremely hostile environments, many newborns barely survive weeks, if not days.

Hand In Hand For Syria is a charity that provides fundamental support to some of the worst- effected areas of the country. In 2013, the organisation opened a specialist hospital in Atmeh (a town in Northern Syria) featuring fundamental resources including ultra-violet lights and incubators.

The story of a pregnant widow who fell into labour while making the dangerous trip from the destructed city of Homs to the Northern city of Idlib, is just one of many moving testaments of the incredible work the charity continues to provide. “Unless you get them to a special unit like that, the chances are they will probably not survive,” said Pannell.

Due to the lack of medical equipment—including basic immunisations and health supplements— diseases that were once irradiated in Syria such as Polio, have become an all too familiar sight. “Kids are not getting vaccinations like MMR and Rubella when they are babies and are now paying the price.”


The young face of war

Sadly for the youth still inside Syria, guns, grenades, fighter jets and helicopter gun ships are not just things they see on television, yet sights that are witnessed everyday throughout their streets.

“It is a lost generation. It is a generation of children who have lost their childhood—their childhood is over.

As soon as you can walk you are pretty much a part of the war effort in one way or another,” said Pannell.

Being utilised as anything from messengers to frontline soldiers, it is clear that young Syrian lives are becoming violated and abused as a result of the conflict—a belief that is shared with major organisations including Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In a report released by HRW, a 14-year-old boy named ‘Raed’ tells the organisation about his personal involvement helping the Free Syrian Army—one of the many radicalising rebel groups creating terror in Syria.

“We would help the FSA by bringing them supplies [weapons] from Turkey. We would bring bullets and Russiyets [Kalashnikovs]. All of the kids were helping like this. We were 10 boys between 14 and 18-years old. I know the guys in the FSA and they asked me to help in this way. I did this for four or five months.”

Raed, explains the time he was shot in the back of his leg while running from the opposition—an injury that will scar him both physically and mentally forever. One of the lucky ones, he was transported over the border to Turkey to receive critical medical treatment that saved his life.

“I’ve had four surgeries and have three surgeries left—I don’t know if I will walk again,” he told Human Rights Watch.

Like Raed, many young boys are partaking in some sort of military action, whether it be on the frontline, or just playing around with their father’s rifle.

“When kids grow up, especially boys, they want to do what the men in their family do, and in their case the men in their society, have guns and are feted as heroes. So of course, when you see children playing, they are reenacting battles and conflicts,” said Pannell.

Priyanka Motaparthy, a researcher for the Child’s Right Division at HRW, suggests that even family members, friends and hierarchy figures within their society can far too easily influence children into participating in armed intervention.

Today, millions of Syrian children face life as a refugee, with an unprecedented percent of that number being under 12-years-old. Research has also identified that tens-of-thousands of families are without fathers, or worse, orphaned entirely.

The consequence? Many children as young as 7- years-old are seen as the primary breadwinner for their family, working in hostile environments that are dangerous and exploitative.

Everyday, more and more children set off on their journey to escape the battlefields. According to the UN, it is believed that over half of the 2.2 million refugees that live in neighbouring countries are under 18-years-old.

Although they may have escaped the cruel conflict, the sights they have witnessed will never leave. Many children are left with ongoing problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), emotional scaring, injury and lack of education—issues no child should have to face.

Jordan is now home to more than 600,000 registered Syrian refugees that are in desperate need of medical and humanitarian care. Zaatari Refugee Camp is one of the most established bases in country, providing shelter to thousands of families.


A Plastic Pandemic - Boomerang Bags

An Interview with Boomerang Bags

By Eleanor Knight

Plastic bags surround us. From local shopping malls and grocery stores, to your everyday household waste, it’s hard to turn a street corner without coming into contact with these disposable, overused items. However, with Queensland’s decision to ban the bag by mid 2018, this is all about to change. 

It is estimated that the world’s population uses more than 1 trillion plastic bags per year, with almost 3.8 billion of those in Australia alone. To add to these harrowing facts, only 3 per cent of that world figure is reported as recycled, with more than 200,000 plastic bags dumped in landfill every hour. And it doesn’t stop there. In fact, the consequences of plastic are even more terrifying—take the Albatross as an example.

For thousands upon thousands of years, this incredible species has circled Antarctica, collecting food and feeding their young on a diet predominately made up of sand eels, squid and fish. However, in the last few decades, their usual diet of ocean delicacies has been hidden—hidden away under a bed of plastic. In 2015, a team of English and Australian scientists reported that by 2050, 99 per cent of all seabirds are likely to have undigestible plastic waste in their stomachs. Sea birds are not the only victims of this plastic pandemic. Marine life such as turtles, dolphins, whales and fish are also truly threatened by our outrageous disposal of single-use plastic.

National Audubon Society
National Audubon Society

Destroyer to Protector

So, what can we do to make a change? Is it too late to rewind and rectify our actions?

Eleanor Knight spoke to Jordyn De Boer, co-founder of Boomerang Bags, about how as individuals, and a community, we can make a difference.


About Boomerang Bags

Established on the Gold Coast in 2013, Boomerang Bags works to reduce the use of plastic bags by engaging local communities to create sustainable carriers from offcuts of recycled material.

From humble beginnings, the not-for-profit organisation now has more than 400 ‘sewing bee’ communities throughout the world, including countries such as Canada, Poland, Iceland, Indonesia, Germany and the United Kingdom.

To find out more about Boomerang Bags’ empowering, community-focused projects, or to learn how you can set up a ‘sewing bee’ community within your local area, visit

Interview with Jordyn De Boer

The team at Boomerang Bags must be overjoyed by the Government’s recent decision to ban the use of plastic bags by mid 2018. What do you think about it?

It’s a huge step forward, and obviously it’s a flow on effect from many other areas around the world that are taking positive steps to ban the bag. There are a few loopholes in terms of Woolworths and Coles implementing another plastic alternative to the existing plastic bag, but they have said there will be a fee on that.

A lot of other countries have seen huge reductions in the use of plastic bags in consequence to the fee [tax] so it’s certainly a big step forward.

And it means that people are asking for it, which I think is the best thing—the communities are saying ‘we don’t want this anymore’.

Being the co-founder of Boomerang Bags, you are obviously very passionate about this topic. What advice would you give to people who currently use plastic bags, and will soon have to find another alternative?

It’s a transition, and it’s all about starting somewhere. First things first, find an alternative, whether it’s a bag, basket, box, whatever suits you and your lifestyle. Secondly, getting into a habit of using it, and not beating yourself up

—it’s not something that happens over night, it’s like any positive habit that you want to implement.

Most importantly, just give yourself some time to become more informed about the issue at hand. For me, these habits started because I found out what impact those daily choices were having, and if you can flip that around and go ‘if I choose to take my reusable bag today I can have a positive impact on the world’ that’s a really good way to look at it, and a good way to get motivated.

But in terms of strategy, things like hanging them on your front door, leaving them at the front of your house, in your car, and in your purse are obviously good ways to remember and get into the habit.

Photo credit to


Perhaps this is a bit of a simple question, but why is it so important to limit the amount of plastic, including plastic bags, that we use?

It’s actually not a very simple question to answer as it’s such a multifaceted issue. I guess starting with the beginning of its life—it’s a synthetic material made from oil, which we know is a highly unsustainable product to be using. Not to mention the production—the water use and resources going into making and transporting plastic at such a huge quantity, all for just an average of 12-minutes’ use before throwing them away.

And then there’s that term of ‘away’—it doesn’t really exist. It’s going somewhere, whether it’s going into the ground, or part of the 8-million tonnes that end up in the oceans each year.

Obviously another huge factor is the impact it’s having on wildlife through ingestion and entanglement.

Lastly, the fact that this product was made to last forever—even though plastic may break up into smaller pieces, those smaller pieces are still existing in our water.


Living a plastic-free life is idyllic, and I’m sure it would be a positive thing for all of us to embrace. Having said that, I can imagine a life without plastic could be a limiting life—does it have to be?

There are definitely ways around it, especially at the moment because the zero-waste movement has grown considerably in the last few years. There are a lot more companies coming out with products that are not packaged in plastic, as well as bulk food stores that sell groceries without packaging.

I think just changing your perspective on it—realising that it doesn’t necessarily have to be limiting, and that there are options and alternatives out there if you look for them.

Most importantly, just remembering to take it one step at a time. Start with your food products, and then move onto trying to make your own [household and cosmetic] products.

Instead of feeling like it’s a limiting exercise, make it a fun, exciting and empowering exercise, knowing that those choices you are making are having a positive impact.

As consumers it is great to stand up for something we believe in. However, do you think the drive for plastic-free products and packaging should come from the consumers of producers?

That’s something that I have thought about a lot over the last year or so, and there are a lot of different ways to look at it and opinions on it. I guess from a Boomerang Bags point of view, we are really coming in through a grassroots-ground up level, in terms of educating people, and helping them make more conscious decisions as consumers.

I do think it needs to come from both levels, and I think that when you are talking about penalties and fines, it should probably be the producers and manufacturers of the products, rather than the consumers.

However, I think that as consumers, we are the ones that are going to have to try and tell them [producers] that that’s what we want to see, by choosing to buy, or not, buy their products.

As customers, we have the ability to drive that market.


Even though the idea of phasing out single-use plastic is very possible, there will still be huge effects from plastic that exists within our systems. How can we try to rectify this?

I have heard some things about certain bacteria and organisms that can break down plastic. There’s also a lot of new technology that is trying to clean up the oceans and plastic that already exists out there, but it’s hard to say whether we can actually ‘clean it up’.

So, I think the best thing we can actually do is stop. Stop using single-use plastic as much as possible to stop it going into our environment.

Have you heard the Chinese proverb “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”—well I think we can only do what is within our power, and I think it’s within our power to make an effort today to reduce plastic.

Sustainable Surf Collab

Sustainable Surf Collab is a byproduct of two people’s aspiration to create a positive change within their local community. Their shop/cafe/gallery/social space serves, hands-down the best coffee in Cooly, as well as regularly running art exhibitions and community-focused events that you don’t want to miss.

On the Couch with Eleanor Knight

Want to hear more about the topics that really matter? In partnership with Sustainable Surf Collab, Rarlo Journalist, Eleanor Knight hosts monthly interview nights with influential organisations and individuals from all corners of the Gold Coast. Visit the Sustainable Surf Collab’s Facebook page to stay up to date with the latest events, and be part of the conversation.


Photography by Fran Miller

Special thanks to Sustainable Surf Collab & Jordyn De Boer from Boomerang Bags