Tag Archives: society

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.

Where did all the sane people go?

Disclaimer: I consider myself moderate and sane. I am in no way promoting any political party in this blog.

Watching politics for the past year I have several times been inclined to ask, “Where did all the sane people go?” Although I do not identify with either major political party in the United States completely, the side that bothers me time and again are the Republicans.

First it was the radio and television personalities such as Newt Gingrich and Michael Savage, host of the Savage Nation. I recently moved to a somewhat rural area of the Inland Northwest and I was suddenly catapulted into a world where the Savage Nation plays on the radio like clockwork at 5 p.m. everyday and congressmen fight against having young men and women live in the same residence halls.

Then comes the new breed of Republican politicians. People who disrupt the President when he is speaking during a national address much as a third grader would interrupt a teacher. People like Sarah Palin, who insist on distorting facts and using scare tactics to lure people to her side (think death panels). People who paint faces on the President’s portrait and liken him to Adolf Hitler. Then there are the everyday citizens who seem intelligent enough until they accuse the president of not being born in the United States. You’ve seen the town hall videos–some of these people are crazy.

What I am confused about is what all of the commotion is about. Why did all the crazies come out of the woodwork all of a sudden?

Some people say it is because there are many whites who are afraid that a black man is in power. That may be true in some cases, but I feel a large majority of people lack the facts. Many people have core values, which I will not deride. These values include anti-abortion and Christian values. I do not think this is wrong. What I think is wrong is that the leaders of a party that tries to portray itself as “Christian” commit acts daily that are un-Christian. How is fear mongering, accusing someone of not being a citizen and plain lying “Christian?” The problem here is these leaders are very good at persuading certain groups of people that they are right and they are taking care of them when they are simply taking care of themselves.

Another problem I have with this “Christian” cover by this party is the lack of support they have for other people. Case in point is the outcry against socialized programs.  Would not Christ himself favor “socialism” over letting people fend for themselves? If someone is truly Christian, I would think they  would be supportive of systems that help those less fortunate than themselves.

So I will suggest a call to action to all the sane Republicans left out there. Please speak out against the crazies in your group and put them in check. Right now they are representing you all poorly and making people like myself second guess the intelligence of anyone who would choose to be associated with a party such as this.

Pit bulls: Hate the humans, not the dog

I would like to take a moment to talk about something that boils my blood–the misinformed hysteria regarding a certain breed of dog.

The pit bull.

What comes to your mind when you think about a pit bull? For many people across the world feelings of fear immediately pop up. But where does this fear really come from? How many of these people have actually spent enough time with a pit bull to judge its behavior?

I own a pit bull mix. I used to introduce her as a lab mix for fear of judgment from the people I talked to. I knew that if she got into one scuffle at the dog park she would automatically be labeled as “that pit bull” by people who know nothing of this dog’s true nature. In fact, once a dog started attempting to mount my dog, she snapped at him as if to say “get off of me” and immediately the owner said, “Oh you hate to see that happen. Is that a pit bull?”  I thought, “Yes, I do hate to see stupid dogs trying to molest my dog.”

My dog is as sweet as can be. She has absolutely no dog aggression and she behaves as many pit bulls I have met over the years-extremely fond of people and tolerant, if not downright playful, with other dogs. Anyone who truly has met several pit bulls will soon learn how sweet they are and what poor guard dogs they can be since they are so fond of humans and crave affection. Yet, when I introduced her to a man from Europe he ran away from her terrified even though he’d never met a pit bull and my dog had what I could only describe as a “love me please” face on and expressed absolutely no interest in him.

The sad truth, however, is that some evil people have trained some of these dogs for violence and that is what people focus on.  Moreover, some people buy pit bulls thinking that they will protect their property or look “cool.” This makes the good dogs and the good owners suffer. The pit bull is not for the weak of heart. Having a dog with such a negative social stigma is not to be taken lightly. There is no doubt it is a strong dog and its capabilities should not be brushed aside. As with any dog, you must take caution when it is in a new environment, with new dogs or new people. You must watch your dog. You must train your dog. YOU must take responsibility for your dog.

I have heard people say we should not keep pit bulls because they are dangerous just like a wolf or lion–it is their opinion that all pit bulls should be euthanized or banned from cities. I wonder if someone of this opinion would then like to ban all domesticated dogs. After all, they are all descendants of wolves and their nature could turn at any moment. In fact, when I am at the dog park I find other breeds of dogs more likely to attack than the well-trained pits.

It constantly amazes me how people are scared of something that they have no first-hand knowledge of and that is statistically never going to affect them. Far more people die from smoking then getting bitten by a dog of any kind. Yet what are we trying to ban?

I say blame the humans, don’t blame the dog. I had a friend that was bitten by a dog (which happened to be a pit)  about a year ago and this is what set me on a quest to right the wrongs against this breed. This dog was euthanized because it was abused by its owners, not properly trained, and then it snapped. This dog could have had the potential to be a great dog but it never had a chance with these horrible owners.

My final message would be this: Know your dog’s breed and train it appropriately. To those against pit bulls, learn more about this breed above and beyond the slanted media stories and you will see a completely different side to the story.

Read an interesting story about pit bulls from Newsweek.

Why environmentalism hurts

I’m an environmentalist, and it hurts.

Let me explain. I am one of the lucky people who has been stricken with an undying passion to save the planet. I’m the girl who sobs while watching the wildlife shots on Planet Earth. I get so worked up when thinking about global warming that I literally feel like I alone bear the burden of fighting this global catastrophe.

My mom asks me why I’m so opinionated and my boyfriend says I get too worked up about things I can not change. These comments burden me even further.

The burden of passion

I’m sure some of you can relate to my strife. If you are a passionate person you often feel frustrated and as if you are an outsider fighting for justice. Whether you are an advocate of peace, a better environment or poverty elimination, your passion can move you to tears.

When we care so deeply about something it is hard to separate ourselves and unburden our hearts.

Accepting the burden

I have recently decided that I do not want to be unburdened. It is the burden that pushes me to do great things. It is the burden that makes me want to prove others wrong and make a difference when no one thought it could be done.

Some people think I’m a crazy environmentalist with too many opinions, but I pity those who live without such passion. While they may not feel the “burden” they do not feel the joy in knowing that they have something to believe in.

And I do.

Easy ways to give back this Earth Day

Today is Earth Day and it’s time to give back to Mother Earth. If you aren’t already a particulary environmental person, try doing something sweet for the planet to show your respect. Environmentalist or not, here are three quick tips for this Earth Day (and for every day):

1. Plant a tree

Planting a tree is a wonderful way to go green this Earth Day. If planting your own tree isn’t possible this Earth Day, many environmental organizations let you plant a tree with just a few clicks of the mouse (and a modest donation).

You can plant a tree for $1 through the Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion campaign. Your money will help The Nature Conservancy plant trees in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest. The Nature Conservancy hopes to plant one billion trees throughout the forest in the next seven years.

You can also plant a tree through Tree Nation, which is supported by the United Nations Environment Programme. Tree Nation’s goal is to plant 8 million trees in Niger, Africa, with the hopes of ending desertification in the region. The organization works with local community members and plants trees native to the region.

2. Buy a reusable shopping bag

Many non-profit environmental organizations sell reusable shopping bags. You can also try the following organizations to buy affordable reusable bags online:

Green Feet

ECOBAGS

Many stores, such as Wal-Mart and Toys R’ Us, also sell reusable bags in their stores, but you can use any large sack or duffel bag to do the job. At the very least, make sure you ask for a paper bag instead of a plastic bag when you go to the store.

3. Pick up someone else’s trash

Last night I was taking a walk in the park and I noticed a woman who was picking up garbage as she walked along the trail. Although she got some weird stares from some people, she was doing something really positive for the environment. No doubt she went home that night with a feeling of accomplishment. I often pick up trash that I see on the ground, which usually goes to my recycling bin. I encourage everyone to do the same and make your city or town just a little bit cleaner.

Happy Earth Day!

My outcry against bags

I have a beef with bags, and the people who misuse them.

My mother thinks it’s cute that I get so mad because the cashier at the grocery store put the milk in its own separate plastic bag. She even thinks it’s cute when I tell her not to put her bananas in those useless produce bags at the grocery store. I mean, aren’t the bananas touting a protective yellow peel anyway?

My friends also think I’m crazy when I vent over the fact that the cashiers at Chipotle always try to put my burrito bowl in a sack. Seriously? Why do I need an entire sack for something that is already in a case? This goes the same for any restaurant (not to mention those heinous styrofoam leftover carriers).

What amazes me is that people think they need to put everything in separate bags. What further disgruntles me is those organizations that still use plastic bags, even though plastic bags could take anwhere from a year to more than 250 years to decompose. To me, this just seems like a flagrant diregard for the environment.

Stores like Wal-Mart have started selling “eco-friendly” bags, but I wonder how many people actually buy and use these bags to carry their groceries. Most people seem perfectly content with putting their bananas (which they have already bagged in produce bag) in another plastic bag. They leave the store with something like 20 new plastic bags in their cart, which they probably end up throwing away (although Wal-Mart offers to let you bring back your used plastic sacks for recycling).

So where am I left in this mess of bag? I am that annoying lady in front of you at Chipotle who specifically asks for the special “bag” person NOT to bag my stuff. I am the annoying girl in the self-checkout line of the grocery store who is either bagging my stuff into a tote bag or searching for paper sacks (they are usually hidden away somewhere). If I accompany you on a shopping trip, I might even re-allocate the contents of your plastic sacks and give one of the empty bags back to the cashier (who is surely scowling at me). No matter where I am, I usually draw annoyed looks and weird stares.

My solution

Stores need to stop carrying plastic sacks. They should give patrons their own reusable sacks that they can bring along to the grocery store. Most grocery stores already track their customers through some identification system already, so they would be able to easily track who has received a reusable sack from the store. No bag, no service. Or, no bag, then carry your stuff out by hand. If the patron needs new sacks, they can conveniently purchase them from the store. This would not only reduce consumption and waste, but it would also profit the company, who would no longer need to invest in those fleeting plastic bags.

At the very least, stores and people should not needlessly bag items. Don’t put those bananas in the produce bag. Don’t put your milk or laundry detergent in a separate sack. Heck, don’t put these in a sack at all. They already have handles for you to carry them with.

Companies with a conscience

Stop. Close your eyes and think about the qualities of a successful company.

If you are like many environmentalists, these words may have came to mind: Profit. Exploitation. Pollution.

In today’s world it’s easy for us to get caught up in what is going wrong in in society, and in doing so, we forget to focus on the good. We forget to think about those companies who do their best to end exploitation and do good for the environment at the same time.

Here is what these “do-good” companies have realized: being a good sumaritan is actually good for your company.

Chipotle

Chipotle has all the ingredients (literally) for a successful business. They have a niche, they have a business sense, and they even top it off with tasty burritos.

But this product has a conscience. Chipotle’s menu consists of natural and organic ingredients.

The hallmarks of Food With Integrity include things like unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, sustainable, nutritious, naturally raised, added hormone free, organic, and artisanal. And, since embracing this philosophy, it’s had tremendous impact on how we run our restaurants and our business. It’s led us to serve more naturally raised meat than any other restaurant in the country, to push for more sustainable practices in produce farming, and to work with dairy suppliers to eliminate the use of added hormones from their operations. —Chipotle Web site.

Learn more about Chipotle’s Food With Integrity philosophy here.

Aveda

Aveda has a superb product and comparable prices to other designer hair and beauty manufacturers.

So what makes them stand out?

Aveda believes there is no responsible alternative to doing business other than through environmental sustainability. At Aveda, we also believe that profit and environmental responsibility will increasingly work together as more industries find out that “nature works” for both sustainability and the bottom-line. –Aveda Web site

Aveda uses 100 percent wind power to operate their manufacturing facilities. Aveda is also one of the largest purchasers of organic ingredients among beauty organizations. Aveda doesn’t stop there, however. They support responsible packaging, participate in charitable giving, and support the indigenous communities that help provide Aveda with its natural plant-based ingredients.

Organic valley

Organic Valley, the “Family of Farms,” is comprised of1,205 farmers from across the United States. Instead of the traditional company, where the wealth is distributed to only a few, each member of the Organic Valley cooperative shares the organization’s wealth.

Organic Valley prides itself in distributing food that is better for the environment and better for people.

A commitment to choosing local and regionally produced foods is a core value of the organic movement. In addition to fresher foods and reduced fossil fuel consumption, the profit from the sale of locally produced foods is more likely to find its way back into the community. Consumers and family farmers working together to support such local systems form a sustainable partnership. –Organic Valley Web site

And all this environmentalism has profitted the company. The sales of this $259-million cooperative jumped 25 percent in 2005. This is an above-average growth rate for even a conventional food company.

So, environmentalists and social advocates, do not despair! There IS good in the world! I feel a wind of change in here and I think I sense the dawn of a new kind of company — a company that gives back equally to what it takes. A company that truly cares about the world. A company with a conscience.