Tag Archives: culture

A culture of locusts? Lessons from Independence Day

I was recently re-watching the movie Independence Day, which got me thinking about some deep issues. No, I’m not talking about aliens taking over the earth. Whilst in an alien autopsy gone very wrong, Bill Pullman, who plays the United States president, has a vision of what the unearthly visitors are up to.

I saw… its thoughts. I saw what they’re planning to do. They’re like locusts. They’re moving from planet to planet… their whole civilization. After they’ve consumed every natural resource they move on… and we’re next. Nuke ’em. Let’s nuke the bastards.

The aliens in this movie are the stereotypical “bad” guys. They have no regard for others and seek to serve only themselves. But if you read that quote carefully, you may have realized something–the same quote could be used to describe exactly what the “good”  guys, humans, are trying to do. Let’s face it. We are well on our way to destroying the planet. Despite the efforts that many people are trying to make to “save the planet” there are far more people who want to consume, consume, consume.

And it’s not far-reaching to assume that we would like to inhabit other planets.  You can constantly find articles about how a new planet or moon similar to earth may have been discovered, and NASA is currently doing research to promote human survival for a colonization of the moon.

Why are humans so intent on conquering new territory? What makes us think it is our right or obligation to inhabit any other planet besides the one that we are already have such a hard time taking care of? So it would seem we were on our way to becoming locusts. We fear evil aliens and come to realize that we have actually become what we so fear.

Conservation: When should we compromise?

A very close friend of mine is involved in developing a book about a particular animal. This animal is being considered as and Endangered Species, and my friend’s job is to create a book aimed at land owners that will inform them about this species and how they can help protect it. If they protect the species, there is a possibility that it will never get placed on the endangered species list and thus, these landowners will not have to incur any restrictions on their land, where this species resides. In essence, protecting the species is a win-win for everyone.

The problem is, there are certain truths supported by research that are not supported by the land owners. Livestock grazing, if not done properly, has been found to degrade habitat for this species. However, this group of land owners relies on livestock grazing for their livelihood, and so representatives from this group are speaking out so that nothing about grazing is included in this book. While my friend knows what the research says, he asks himself two questions: a) What will happen if I alienate this group of land owners?  and b) These land owners have been working on the land first-hand for years. What if they know more than isolated research?

I freelance for an organization that helps land owners receive benefits in exchange for protecting and conserving critically endangered wildlife, flora and their habitat. I have seen that working together is often one of the most beneficial solutions to environmental problems and that land owners are the best stewards of their own land. This is one solution to solving a big and complex problem and it benefits everyone involved.

How do we draw the line between compromising for the sake of not offending a group of people versus doing what we believe is right? How do we balance the different interest groups that are involved in any type of decision making on anything in society that is worth debating? How do we really know what’s right? Is it appropriate to take an occasional loss in what we think is right to gain a strategic alliance with a group that may help us in the future?

I suppose the correct answer to these questions will vary from person to person, but from watching my friend’s struggle with this issue I suppose it is sometimes OK to create an alliance with a group of people, taking a small loss, but in the end possibly attaining a milestone in success. The hard thing is choosing your battles. In some cases, it would be wrong to compromise–it may go against your morals. In this case, you should not compromise. You must fight. But I think the most important thing that I have picked up from my friend’s situation, is you must respect others and you must always remember, if you are planning to burn a bridge you better not plan on crossing that bridge again later.

How the slums of Mexico changed me *published in Children International eNews

About two years ago I walked through the slums of Mazatlán, Mexico. I looked over at the children in the street, who were playing soccer barefoot, and almost tripped over the loose wires that the neighbors had used to create their own electrical system. I sat next to a mother in her one-room shack, and she welcomed me.

You may ask what a pale, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Kansas girl was doing in a ghetto south of the border. You may think that it seems like the perfect plot for a horror film.

I was working as an intern at Noroeste newspaper in Mazatlán, and my editor decided he wanted me to experience the “real Mexico.” You see, while the other Americans were slathering on the sunblock at Mazatlán’s beautiful beaches, I was experiencing parts of the city hidden to tourists.

I’m not saying I asked to visit the area. I was scared. I felt uncomfortable. I felt frivolous in my pretty designer clothing.

But the residents didn’t care. Sure, a few heads turned, but they welcomed me into their houses. They were eager to tell me about the injustices they had suffered; how the government wouldn’t help them and how they had to create their own electrical and sewage systems.

When I left that day, I felt morose. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that there was poverty in the world. I, myself, did not come from an affluent background. However, to see this firsthand, to talk to poverty’s victims, to see its children, deeply moved me.

Too often we place ourselves so distant from things that make us uncomfortable. We tell ourselves that it’s not our fault and we go on with our lives. We live blind and barren.

I am by birth a fighter for justice. However, my experiences in Mexico have made me stronger in my convictions. I can now put a face on poverty and injustice, and my desire for amnesty for all has increased.

I wish I could tell all of you to visit my little section of Mexico and talk to the people who I talked to, but that is impossible. What I can encourage you to do is open your heart. Understand that we are all connected in this world, and that everybody matters. Wealth should not be measured in dollars, but in love.

I would also encourage you to join me in fighting childhood poverty by sponsoring a child through Children International. I have been sponsoring a child for almost a year, and it is so encouraging to know that I am helping her become the person that she deserves to be.

Please join me. Help make a difference for one child. Show your love and support for those in poverty throughout the world.

This post was reproduced for Children International June 2008 eNews. To see the blog and photos, click for English or Spanish.

Boycott the meat industry

The United States Humane Society (USHS) recently documented gross abuse to dairy cattle at a slaughterhouse in California. Documented abuses to cattle included poking, prodding, kicking and dragging downed and sick cattle, and even forcing water through the animals’ noses and mouths.

To watch complete coverage of what they found, please visit the Humane Society‘s website.

This behavior is despicable and unacceptable.

The sad thing is that this happens more than you would think. I have read numerous investigations that have pointed to the same conclusions. For years, organizations such as PETA (which many people think is off its hinge) have been pointing to animal cruelty in our nation’s meat production plants, but it took a startling investigation such as this one (which has no doubt come to light because the meat from these sick cows was sent to school children and the elderly) to make people actually start caring about these types of mistreatments toward animals.

This video and the other videos on the USHS’s website make me sick to my stomach. Not because children ate the meat from these sickened cows (although that is horrible indeed), but because the workers at this industrial cow farm obviously think that it is okay to abuse and torture animals. To them, animals represent lower beings than the human race, and deserve to be treated as if they do not matter. What’s more, these animals represent no more than a couple of dollars to these people. This type of mentality makes me sick.

Secondly, this makes me sick because these type of animal factories are driven by our disgusting market for mass-produced food. This system of mass produced food is not only unsafe for the humans that consume the food (with mistreatment of animals, use of unnatural pesticides and fertilizers, use of growth hormones, and the introduction of genetically modified foods), but it is inhumane, and I would argue, unethical, as much of the food that workers try so hard to mass produce is thrown away somewhere along the line from animal/plant to human mouth.

I urge anyone reading this blog to take action against this cruelty in any or all of the following ways:

1. Protest against the mass-production of meat and the cruelty of animals at these mass-production plants by refusing to eat meat of unknown source. I am banning all grocery store meat. If you are unaware of how to buy ethically raised meat, the Local Harvest website allows you to find local farms, read about them, and purchase directly through the farmers.

Purchasing your food directly from the farmer ensures that you will be able to monitor how the animals are raised. Buying locally is also better for the environment, as it reduces pollution due to transportation of food.

2. Do not eat genetically modified food. If you shop at a grocery store, try sticking to those products that are USDA certified organic. These products will have the USDA organic green seal on their packaging. For produce, use this key if you are uncertain about how your food was grown:

  • Conventionally grown produce will have a four-digit PLU code (a banana, for instance would have a 4011 on its label.)
  • Organically grown produce will have a five-digit code starting in “9.” (An organic banana will have a PLU code of 94011.)
  • Genetically modified produce will have a five-digit code starting in “8.” (A genetically modified banana will have a PLU code of 84011.)

3. Write your congressman/congresswoman to tell them how you feel about this issue.

4. Support future endeavors by the USHS by donating to the USHS Investigations Fund.

5. Spread the word about this investigation to your friends who may not know that these kinds of things are going on in our supposed “civilized” society.

6. Write your own blog discussing the issue. The more people who are talking about it, the more difference we can make.

If this kind of mistreatment of animals does not make you feel sick, I question that you have a soul. Please do the right thing and join me in my protest of these types of atrocities. Just doing one of the above suggestions can make a difference. Thank you!