Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: ethical

Critical Thinking Develops, Just Like A Muscle, When Used Often

(Published as a column in the AM News on Friday June 20, 2014)

To protectTwo issues are topping this week’s hot list. One local – the imminent closure of Stuart Wood Elementary – and one provincial, the approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline.

As it happens, they seem to have at least two common denominators. The first is that they will affect more than the present generations and they will cause changes to the landscape as we know it.

The second is that such decisions require open and extended public consultations and a strong dose of critical thinking in order to be deemed acceptable by the majority of people, an important safeguarding feature of any democracy.

The Stuart Wood imminent closure has brought forth a sad reality and it extends past the walls of the actual heritage building. The downtown needs a public English-speaking elementary school. Lloyd George is a French immersion school that could be converted, once again, to a dual track. Or another site can be considered as a potential location for a new school.

Should the school close, the whole face of the downtown will change; its vibrancy will suffer and new families may be deterred from moving in, knowing that they’ll have to buss their children to a school up the hill.

As the saying goes, when there is a will, there is a way. In this case, it could be paved with some solid critical thinking bricks leading to a result that will benefit families with young children and all residents who want their community to stay as vibrant as ever. Schools can do that.

As for the Northern Gateway pipeline, yes, it was approved. No big surprise there.

The decision was made after an independent panel reviewed scientific data, the PM said, and yes, it is supposed to bring tremendous economic growth and create new jobs.

And who in their right mind would stand in the way of economic growth and more jobs (though opponents argue that more existing ones will be lost should the pipeline happen)?

The answer is no one; if it’s done right, that is.

By the looks of it, there are still multiple issues regarding the pipeline. Will the jobs (most of them temporary, let’s not forget that, once the pipeline is built) be given to Canadians, and how much of the revenue will stay in the province?

Yet he ultimate question and most important is, of course, how much is the pristine beauty of that area of the province is worth, should a spill occur. You simply cannot put a price to that or risk it in any way.

According to Nature Canada, the oldest nature conservation charity in Canada, a pipeline has an estimated ‘one in four chance of a major spill during its lifespan.’ Any risk of a spill is too much.

The process leading to the final decision was anything but responsible, according to a group of 300 unapologetic scientists who called the Northern pipeline report flawed and useless. Environmental groups, regular citizens and a coalition of BC aboriginal groups openly opposed the project, saying that the pipeline should not happen.

Too much to risk, they say and not enough to gain.

Here’s an analogy: imagine you’re standing on a cliff by the water, ready to jump in. You are a good swimmer, but there are boulders that can hurt you as you jump. Some say the risk is minimal, the risk too small to count, others say the risk is high and the effects irreversible; they say you shouldn’t. Would you still jump?

Critical thinking is what we employ in making decisions. From every day small ones to big, monumental ones that are to be reflected onto many generations to come as well as the present ones, and also sealing the fate of the place we call home, province and country-wide both.

We tell our kids to think before they act and be ready to face the consequences. But if consequences are not immediate, as in this case, who will be facing them?

Critical thinking is required in today’s world more than anything. We’re bombarded with a flurry of information, we have to choose, we have to stand by an issue or another, and, bottom line: we have to be present in the community, just like we are in our own homes, and have a say in the decisions to be made.

In case of decisions involving more than one person and one generation, the effect of any ill-fated mishap is multiplied to the point of being impossible to estimate.

Critical thinking, getting involved and voicing an opinion might just prevent that.

How else can we look into our children’s eyes and say ‘to the best of my knowledge, I did everything I could’ without looking down because in truth, we know we did not…

That’s What I Think – Part 2

The color orange is a jolly one, it is, especially mid winter. Even better when sweetness is wrapped up in it. Like in mandarins. I almost bought some yesterday but stopped short of doing so because of all the chemicals they come loaded with. Not even going to the pesticide load they carry before harvesting even, will leave that aside for now. Just the stuff they’re sprayed with to keep fresh and bright colored while waiting quietly for people like me to buy them. As much as I love them and I know the boys do too I could not get myself past the imazalil and TBZ (thiabendazole). The wrongness of seeing those words on something I am supposed to eat makes my insides churn in a very uncomfortable way. These chemicals (and more like them) are added post-harvest to prevent mold growth. Fair enough. Moldy fruit is no fun. Some of the organic citrus fruit I am buying gets moldy even if kept in the fridge. Annoying as that is, I accept the moldy decay with dignity. It’s a fact of nature. Not all fruit makes it from the tree to my mouth completely spotless and unharmed. Just like not all fruit gets attacked by mold. The way I see it, it’s natural selection. We want that dealt with. Have our cake and eat it too. The more I think of it the more I realize the fallacy of such larger than life requests. It cannot be. And that’s not all good news. Sobering, if you will.

Most fruit come with their natural wax and that’s bound to make them resistant to pests and mold. Conventionally treated citrus have the natural wax removed and a synthetic one added together with fungicides to prevent mold growth. Because we want our fruit perfect: ripeness, color, sweetness. freshness, firmness. And good luck seeing any major size discrepancies in sold fruit. That’s also taken care off.

I’m not sure about the trade off anymore. And quite sure on the other hand that we’re kind of holding the short stick. Not just with citrus, but with food in general. Forget about eating what’s in season, that’s long gone.Some of us do it but it gets rather complicated. I am not sure how many of us know exactly what eating seasonally involves. What should be available during the winter months? Definitely no fresh and cheap strawberries or raspberries. Or most of the fresh produce grocery stores have be it summer or winter. The way I see it, there’s a bit of a catch. If it’s the season for it, it needs fewer chemicals to grow and stay fresh. If it’s not the season for it, it needs to be shipped from somewhere else and that means chemical treatment because it needs to reach the destination all perky and beautifully fresh. If it needs lost of chemicals to grow and stay fresh guess where those chemicals will end up? Bingo! Say thank you to your liver, it deals with a lot. More about that in another post. So what about fruit and veggies that don’t grow where we live, you ask? If I’d have any say in it, I’d settle for mine to bear the treat status. It would be a bit pricey because I’d like it to be clean of chemicals and with no child or forced labor behind it, but something makes me think that appreciation for a mandarin would go up and very little food leftovers will be thrown in the garbage.

I think we need to go back and rethink our food needs and wants. Appreciation of food should have little to do with price. There was a time when people looked forward to the first crop of the season from the green onions in spring to the sweet summer fruit and fresh vegetables to the the rich fall crops that were supposed to last all winter. The exotic fruits and veggies made a meal even more special. Appreciation has to do with quality and taste and not in the least with how it affects our health. Having it all cheap and available comes with a huge tag price. Even with a perfectly looking fruit in my hand I see spoilage. With harm-causing roots running deeper than any naturally occurring mold ever could.


That’s What I Think – Part 1

I just finished reading an article on child labor in cotton fields in Burkina Faso. You can read it here. Sad does not even address the issue. Heartbreaking would be accurate. Child labor and its awful relative forced labor are not news unfortunately. It’s a terrible shame that’s been around for a long time and there’s no end in sight unless we’re all doing something. It’s fair to say that we’re all sharing the load. Sure I am the poster child for built-in guilt in general, but this is something we’re all involved in. Enabling slavery. Sounds terrible because it is.
I thought, naive I know, that fair trade commerce really is a creature with a spine of steel. If you’ll read the article mentioned above you’ll suffer the same disappointment crisis. Is nothing sacred anymore then? Tough question. I believe there’s still a lot of good people out there. The fact remains, my trust in how I choose my products is shattered for now. I did not purchase any of the above-mentioned items nor do I plan to, but what a let down. I logically wondered how many of the things I am buying fair trade are actually fairly traded. Made me shudder. What’s next? Inquiring about every product that’s sold as fairly traded and not taking a nice smile for an answer anymore. That’s a small contribution though in the big picture.

You see, the problem is much bigger than one could possibly imagine. There’s approximately 130 products made by child and forced labor according to a document put together by the U.S. Department of Labor. Think bananas, cocoa, cotton, chile peppers, rice, onions, tomatoes, coffee, sugar, carpets. Many of the typical Christmas ornaments are a result of forced labor. Merry Christmas it may be but only to those on this side of the fence I guess. Oh, don’t forget gold, diamonds and rare metals used in high tech products. Keep counting until you reach 130 or so. The reality is screaming at us: We are relying heavily on slavery! There’s no two ways about it. Nothing will change overnight, but if we ignore it further nothing will change, ever. The pillow we rest on at night might become harder then rocks, because of the wrongness of it all.

If you’re thinking these are exaggerated statements, please take a look at your kids or other kids you know and imagine them set off in early morning to work on the field or in a mine. With barely a bowl of cooked millet to it, if that, at the end of the day. See how hard it is to finish the thought? I could not finish mine either. And I didn’t even mention the physical punishment many of the child laborers get. The hopelessness and fear they feel.

There’s ways to alleviate the pain. Start asking where your products are coming from. One by one you can make better choices. I’ll do the same. Been doing so for a while but today’s reading made me think I was too gullible perhaps and took someone’s word for it without checking twice. Cannot afford that when there’s human suffering involved.
I promise to inquire about a possible policy regarding child and forced labor for the goods that are imported to Canada and I will get back to you.
I think it’s time people who have it better do something about the issue. Time to pull the head out of the sand and see what it is to see. You in?

The Problem With Pink

The advertisement flyers did it. The pink cupcakes, the pink cookies, all highly processed made from refined flour and sugar, plus artificial colors, they had the well-known pink ribbon right next to them. Eat that to support breast cancer research? Really? And then the other flyers with cosmetics, pink seat covers and the rubber mats for cars. And plastic stuff, lots of products adorned with the pink ribbon. Well, I am slightly irked. OK, not slightly, but very much so. Some of the very things that have the pink appeal – no pun intended at all – should be avoided in the first place. Cosmetics companies that still use carcinogenic compounds, whether willingly disclosed or not, throw the pink ribbon on their forehead and walk proudly down the street. Plastics, research tells us, we should stay away from if we can help it, because some plastic compounds can affect the endocrine system and increase the risk of cancer. Remember bisphenol A (BPA), we’re still fighting to kick it out and it’s not easy. Buying plastic products to seemingly help fund cancer research is a bit of a cruel joke, I’d say. Test-driving cars and having money donated to breast cancer research for each ride when the very chemicals found in new cars have been shown to increase the risk of cancer, plus the exhaust gases adding insult to the injury, well, you do that math and please let me know if it looks better from your perspective. Because it sure looks gloomy from where I stand. If you think I’m a naysayer just look into how much of what you’re paying for a certain product that comes with a pink ribbon actually goes towards breast cancer research. After all, a good deed should be a good deed through and through not just on the surface. Because you see, if the seat covers are made using plasticizers or flame retardant chemicals which have been linked to cancer, then no pink ribbon in the world should be part of the selling advertisement. Yes, I agree that flame retardants in cars are a must, but removing the pink ribbon would only seem fair. The same goes for those $10 winter mittens, $1 of which will go towards breast cancer research. If cotton that was conventionally grown using pesticides that increase the risk of cancer was used to make the mittens, then part of the purpose is somewhat defeated I’d say. It’s time we care about all that we put out there and many companies do. It’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and all that long list of things that we use on a day to day basis. We can’t have it perfect, but we should strive for clean.

So, the ribbon. A good reminder by all means. Breast cancer is real. Globally, it affects more women than any other type of cancer and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. Hearing that is scary. Knowing what to do to decrease your risk and lending is a hand to finding a cure, well, that’s empowering. Awareness is crucial and so is the money to support research and spread the word. Should we kick the pink ribbon to the curb? No, not at all. There are walks and runs for breast cancer and there’s pink ribbons all over, there’s great ad campaigns about eating healthy and avoiding things that could increase the risk of cancer, including chemicals in the first place, and then there’s attaching the ribbon to something that makes a positive difference in the life of women. There’s so much you can do. Donate money, give a friend or family member who is dealing with cancer your time and energy, raise awareness in your own way, buy ribbon-adorned products if they are the true thing, but let pink be pink and not just a hue.  After all, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month! So make it real, make it count!

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