Wednesday, March 21, 2012

borrowed, part 2

It's necessary to do what my friend did in Costco and explore the true cost of bananas. This video captures it:

By our choices we impact the dignity and health of others. Next time you go to the grocery store tell the produce manager, store manager and check out person you’re willing to pay for fair trade bananas. Take your children with you and tell them why you’re doing it.

It’s an enrichment opportunity...for the children of others.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


I live in an era in which I’m expected to devote resources to provide my children enrichment opportunities, all with the notion that it will somehow serve them in the future, maybe even get into college. There’s a whole industry around this, starting when babies are drooling in diapers. It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy because what parent doesn’t want his or her child to try archery or throw clay on a wheel?

I wonder though how this mania translates into adulthood.

That is, what sort of future adults are we shaping when we condition children from a young age to assume whole chunks of time, energy and other resources are to be devoted to their personal interests? America is only 5% of the world’s population but consumes almost 25% of its resources so what expectations of the world are we already giving them? And when they’re adults, how will all this individual enrichment equip them to heal, let alone inhabit, a world we’ve damaged in pursuit of personal interests?

The other day a friend was in Costco with her children where bananas cost $1.50 a bunch. She took the time to explore with them how mounds of bananas could be in the Midwest at that price. They talked about how and where they were grown, when they were picked, who did the picking and packaging, how they were shipped. The kids learned that the purchase price doesn’t cover the true cost of bananas.

That’s the sort of enrichment opportunity our children need.

It is also what the world needs.

"Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." Native American proverb 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

progress is a comfortable disease*

This morning I woke up to no running water. Since I wake up a good two hours before the other four people in my house, I wondered what this would mean for our morning routine: showers, brushing teeth, breakfast, preparing lunches. Pooping. I had a momentary sense of panic. What if this went on all day? What if it was my whole neighborhood, the school, businesses all around me? Two things then occurred to me, both of which seem incomprehensible because they're happening simultaneously in our world today.

One, for a nanosecond I experienced the water anxiety faced by the 884 million people worldwide who do not have access to safe water. While I was contemplating how to brush my teeth, make my tea, get rid of bodily waste hygienically and prepare food for my family, I was confronted with details and decisions I never have to consider but people, mostly women, worldwide are confronted with daily. All day. Every day.

Two, I and most people I know are completely dependent on systems we know nothing about. I turn a handle to get water. I flip a switch and get light. I flip another and am climatically comfortable. Otherwise, I have no idea how to procure those things for myself.

I don’t know why this passes for progress.

*title from an e e cummings' poem