The making of benevolent plebeians through environmental and humanitarian practices.

Latest

Rape Culture in Thailand

Culturally Curious

Today is the U.N. designated International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women, a scourge that is a worldwide problem that needs to be addressed and a noble cause to bring awareness to. This is also a topic that has been on my mind a lot recently with some of the stories that have been garnering headlines here in Thailand: a video clip of a Thai rock star beating his wife, the romanticization of rape in Thai soap operas and the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl on a train. Couple these incidents with recent comments by the junta-appointed Prime Minister, former General Prayuth, that women in bikinis are not safe – that is unless they are ugly – and it’s clear that what is referred to as rape culture is very much alive and well here in Thailand.

View original post 585 more words

Advertisements

Who is the Humanistic Environmentalist?

Words words words, often times we say so many of them with hardly saying anything at all. As a person on this planet I have a desire to inspire and make a difference. I feel that we need to take care of our environment and each other. Most importantly we don’t need to be more than just who we are to do this. Without our very delicate environment we would not have a human race and I plan to write  from that perspective; encourage people to see the beauty in the world we live in and to advocate for changes to ensure the planet is cared for, to push for equality for everyone and spread the awareness of those who are paving the path towards this. I hope to reach readers who are looking to make a difference but are searching for the ways to do so. I know the world is full of compassionate people, who want to leave a impression on others and the universe. I would love to find people who are inspired to live a life of value and to encourage one another to work together towards small goals that have the potential to make a profound difference. I promise to be serious at times, witty and sarcastic at others but never losing site of the passion I have for humanity and the well being for every living creature that we share the world with. We are all connected and impact one another, the energy from one spreads to the next. I hope in time to grow and learn and inspire and change and love and that for every individual who reads my words will hear what was said.

Solar Radio

Secular Holidays: A Personal Portrayal of Honoring Tradition and Principles

 

Long before the birth of Christianity, people celebrated the winter solstice. In many regions of the world the winter months are dark and frozen; it is a time where nature lays dormant. As the solstice approaches daylight hours grow shorter and temperatures drop colder. During these chilled months no crops needed tending or animals needed feeding, people had to wait out the cold, hope their stockpile of supplies is enough to get by on and there is ample firewood to stay warm. The solstice marks the halfway point of winter, the shortest day of the year; the kickoff for each new waking day bringing more daylight and life. It is no surprise that religions have found this time to be symbolic and many traditions have developed from it.

Celebrating traditional holidays has become more and more of a challenge for me. For most of my youth and into my adult life, I have rejected religious affiliations; viewing the world from scientific eyes. I am not a believer of gods and find holidays that focus on the worshiping of a deity to be childish and lacking in logic. Most of the holidays I grew up celebrating are fundamentally Christian, yet attending church services was a nonexistent concurrence, now I am stuck between the traditions of my childhood and the knowledge that I live in a world influenced by a toxic cocktail of Christianity and corporate commercialism.

Over the past few years I have tried my best to celebrate the holiday season in a secular fashion; partaking in the exchanging of gifts and attending the binding holiday functions, yet it has become hard for me to ignore the evidence of what the holiday season has become and find the desire to participate. I have fond memories from Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations of yore; prior to the increased influx of commercialization, before spending time with loved ones was trumped by the impressive “sales” offered at the all too well known corporate retail giants. So how does an atheist minimalist maintain their traditional roots in this millennium? How does one celebrate holidays in the name of humanity and in celebration of life instead of in worship of some supernatural authority?

If one were to use our sun as an indicator of time, it could be argued that the start of a new year would be on the winter solstice. A period when one can reflect upon the year they had, celebrate the successes they experienced, plan goals for their future and express the love they have for those people closest to them. This year I decided to celebrate Hanukkah in a nonspiritual fashion. I chose this holiday over Christmas for a few different reasons. First as a humanist I found the symbolism in lighting of candles to resound deeply within me; spreading light from one to the next is ideally what we should all be doing for one another. I found the length of the holiday to be perfect, it gave me enough time to reflect upon the year I had. Importantly, this holiday is not as commercialized as Christmas, and its historical roots have a message of peace and remembrance. Whether you believe that there was a civil war between two Jewish groups, or that after being forced to worship Greek gods Jews rebelled; history states there was a violent conflict, 80,000 Jews perished and the holiday represents the lives lost in war. I, being a gentile, took the history and message of this holiday and celebrated in my own unique way.

Humanism and environmentalism is highly important to me, I believe strongly that we must not just care and look after one another as a species but we also must respect and maintain the world we are part of. This was the main theme in my holiday celebration, along with reflecting on how this year has impacted me, the people who have touched me and ways to give tribute to them. I saved up a little bit of money over the course of a few months and planned out donations for different non-profits and organizations that are working to make the world a better place. I each night gave a small donation to a new group and highlighted them on my social media pages. Prior to retiring for the night, I took part in lighting my Menorah, it was a profound experience. Each day I gave a little time and money to something I believed in and spread the awareness of their efforts to others. My act of giving had a major impact on my daily mood. I felt as if I was revolting from the typical holiday experience, rejecting the marketing influences poured down my throat to buy buy buy and it was liberating.

Over the past decade the line between where holiday celebrations ends and where excessive consumerism begins has dramatically thinned, I hope my unique way of partaking in a holiday will influence others to develop their own ways to celebrate. Lighting the internal flame, slowing down the influence on excessive commercialism and getting back to the roots of why we celebrated holidays to begin with. I encourage others to research the origins to their beloved traditions, to push back against marketing influences and to enjoy simply what holidays represent. In my opinion, the plastic overpriced toy does not hold a torch to the time and memories I have made with those whom I share genetics and meaningful connections with. menorah

Traveling This Holiday Season? Tips to Reduce Your Impact on Climate Change

As the holiday season is rapidly approaching, holiday travel is in full effect. Millions of people will board trains, planes and automobiles. 43.4 million Americans will travel 50 or more miles this Thanksgiving alone according to the AAA. Of these travelers 90% will be traveling via automobile, while 5-6% will travel by air and the remaining 2-3% by train, bus or ship. Traveling for most is a very stressful and hectic event, yet is seemingly necessary with families spread out over long distances. It is well known that traveling creates a negative impact on our environment, however there are ways to travel eco-friendly which in many cases will help you save a penny or two.

Automobile travel is the most common means of traveling over the holidays. As 90% of holidaymakers flood our highways, they will account for more than half of the transportation CO₂ emissions this festive season. Transportation in the US accounts for 30% of global warming and 1/3 of carbon dioxide emissions. There are some simple ways to reduce your environmental impact while you’re en route to your holiday destination. Prior to your trip service your vehicle, check fluids, oil level and tire pressure. Under-inflated tires use more fuel due to the increase in rolling resistance; inflate tires to the pressure advised for traveling with heavier loads. Pack as lightly as possible, try to travel with only the essentials; excess weight increases fuel consumption. When on the road take it easy, accelerate and decelerate smoothly, stick to the speed limits and reduce the use of your car’s electronics. Speed is highly important in fuel conservation and reduction of CO₂ emissions, “Driving at 70mph uses up to 9% more fuel than at 60mph and up to 15% more than at 50mph. Cruising at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph.” Give yourself plenty of time for the trip and remember by implementing these tips you will not only reduce your carbon footprint but will also save at least 10% on your holiday fuel cost.

Transportation-Emissions-Pie-Chart(Breakdown of transportation’s total global warming impact)

 

                Compared to other modes of transportation air travel has a larger negative environmental impact per passenger. The burning of jet fuel doesn’t just create CO₂ it also releases water vapor, nitrous oxide, sulfate and soot. The climate impact of air travel is forecasted to be 4 times greater than carbon dioxide emissions alone. While air travel allows for us to arrive at our destination quicker than any other mode of transportation (unfortunately the art of teleportation has yet to be perfected) it comes at great costs. To reduce the negative impact, fly coach on budget airlines. Budget airlines tend to have fewer flights and fill more seats; additionally limit the size and weight of your luggage, only pack what you need. When preparing to travel remember to look into alternative arrangements, depend less on air travel and try taking the train.

Train commute is often forgotten when travel arrangements are being sussed out. While it has an impact on global climate change it only accounts for 2%, one of the many benefits of train travel. The train offers its passengers an opportunity to experience the beauty of our countryside, while being able to board without ever having to take off ones shoes or be cavity searched. Many train stations lack the commotion found in hectic airports and on busy roads. Undeniably, the train takes substantially more time than a plane and even in some cases an automobile and in my experience has yet to run on schedule. But with planning these disadvantages are miniscule compared to disadvantages of the alternatives.

Want a State Bird that Accurately Represents A State? Elect the Florida Scrub-Jay

           There are over 10,000 bird species and only 86 of them are endemic to the United States. Of the 86 species 52 live/lived solely in Hawaii, 1 is located in the Florida Scrubs, 1 calls the Santa Cruz Island its home, 2 are migratory birds that spend their summers in specific spots in the US and winter closer to the equator,  the other species live across many states and span vast amounts of land. Birds that only prosper in precise locations are statistically at greater risk of being endangered. Let’s talk about Hawaii for a minute and what has happened to their endemic birds. As previously stated Hawaii had 52 endemic bird species, only 3 of these species are not on the endangered list and shockingly 26 species are either extinct or believed to be extinct. The number one reason these birds are no longer living is due to habitat loss and disease spread by species introduced by humans. We, as an invasive species, need protect and raise awareness for the ecosystems that we inhabit.

            Official state symbols are chosen to characterize what is treasured in that state. The declaration of a state bird began in 1927, all 50 states have selected a state bird, yet only one state has chosen an endemic species. Hawaii’s state bird is the Hawaiian Goose, the rarest goose in the world. So rare in fact, in 1952 it was believed to be extinct in the wild. It was made the state bird in 1957; whilst it is listed as vulnerable, through education and conservation ventures it’s been reintroduced into the wild and is growing in numbers.

            This brings me to the great state of Florida. Florida like Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, and Mississippi claims the Mockingbird as its state bird. While this bird is seen much throughout the state, and has adapted to live in conjunction with humans, I do not understand how it appropriately represents the state of Florida. Florida is a vibrant place, with amazing ecosystems. It is known for it’s pleasant climate, beaches, sunshine and wildlife. There are many animal species that are unique to Florida. One in particular is the Florida Scrub-Jay, which happens to be the only bird species endemic to Florida. Hawaii, Florida, Texas, California and Alaska are the only States that have endemic bird species; birds that only live in their state and cannot be found elsewhere.

scrub jay  Photo by Laura Erickson .

          The Scrub-Jay lives in the Florida Scrub lands, which span much of the central region of the state. Scrub lands are far easier to develop than the swamp lands Florida is known for. So much of the Scrub has been urbanized, leaving the Scrub-Jay with little room to live. The Florida Scrub-Jay is a true treasure of the state. They have strong family values, working as a unit when searching for food and are one of few cooperative breeding birds of North America. These birds are known to be friendly towards humans and have perched on heads or hands when offered food. Furthermore, because it lives in such a limited region it is highly at risk of becoming extinct. Currently it is listed as Vulnerable on the on the conservation list, and many steps are being taken to preserve this bird in the wild but as human development grows other animal species get pushed out.

scrub jay map (A map of the Florida Scrub-Jay in Florida)

           It has been proposed that the Florida Scrub-Jay be made the state bird of Florida. Doing so will only benefit the Scrub-Jay, it will raise awareness to the conservation of this unique bird and hopefully get it off the endangered species list. Sadly the Florida Scrub-Jay isn’t a bird that many people are even aware of. If you show someone a picture of it they assume it is a Blue Jay, worse-off Florida Natives don’t know the name Florida Scrub-Jay… However everyone knows the Mockingbird.

            Hopefully one day in the near future the Scrub-Jay will be known as the State Bird of Florida, and other states will follow in making changes to their state symbols, ones that are accurate representations of their land. However, this cannot happen without action, we need to get petitions signed and raise awareness. Help protect Florida’s natural heritage and support making the Florida Scrub-Jay a state bird.

Drinking Responsibly? What You May Not Know About Your Daily Cup of Joe

Coffee is a staple in many people’s daily grind. It is enjoyed hot and cold, black and bitter, sweet and creamy and everything in between. It has been the assistant to drained college students, been on many first dates and seen countless breakups; it is enjoyed by the world’s most influential people and caffeinates those barely getting by. Without coffee, some 60% of American’s would not be able to start their day. However, the coffee industry is found to be morally void and destructive to our environment.

The world’s rain forests are home to not only a diverse array of plant and animals it is also where we find a large amount of coffee farming to take place. The majority of coffee farmed uses the “sun method”, where sections of the rain forest are cleared to make room for the planting and harvesting of this crop. The use of chemicals and pesticides are prevalent in sun cultivation, another negative impact on an already vulnerable ecosystem. Between these two practices, species of birds and insects have increasingly reduced to critical numbers. Without the presence of many birds and insects, well you know the circle of life story…

Not all coffee is farmed with such harsh worldly impacts. Many traditional farmers grow shade crops. Crops are grown under the canopy of diverse shade trees, which provide a habitat for wildlife, such as, birds, bees, butterflies and other animals. These traditional farmers tend to also be environmentally friendly in other ways; they compost coffee pulp, rotate crops and don’t apply expensive and harmful chemicals. Upwards to 184 bird species were recorded to be present at traditional coffee (shade-grown) plantations, where only 6-12 species were recorded at an unshaded plantations. Interestingly enough a coffee bean grown in the shade is said to tastes better than a bean grown in the sun.

Coffee production isn’t just harmful to our rainforests and wildlife it also has a huge water consumption footprint. For every single droplet of coffee, 1100 drops of water are used in its overall processing. Global water consumption has dramatically increased and in some cases it has reached the limits of available supply. Our over use of water, arguably the world’s more valuable resource, contributes to the spread of diseases and malnourishment of people. It is projected that by year 2020 there will be a worldwide water shortage. Alarmingly, access to clean drinking water is not readily available for people living in area were coffee production is prevalent.

Undeniably, people will spend an outrageous amount for a cup of coffee,   while small family ran coffee farms are forced to sell their harvest for less than the cost of production and coffee workers earn under the legal minimum wage. In Guatemala permanent worker earns about $2.33 a day when the legal minimum wage is $2.85, and workers in Kenya earn 3-4 times less than the legal wage amount. Often children of these workers have to be put to work in order to help their family earn a suitable salary. Child labor in coffee production is an alarming issue, on some plantations 60% of the workforce are children.  Many of the children working are not officially employed by the farms therefore, not protected by any labor laws. Some children start working as young as age 6 and only 15% have completed any formal education.  This is a prime example of how the cycle of poverty works.

While all this information seems doom and gloom there are alternatives available for the coffee consumer. Whilst I applaud the individual who decides that the negative impacts of the coffee industry outweighs their desire for their daily cup and boycott consumption that is not the exact point I am trying to make. The Bean Belt relies robustly on the coffee consumer; it is the main source of income for thousands of families. However, as coffee consumers, we are obligated to improve the working conditions for those that provide us with our caffeine fix. We need to know where are coffee is coming from; in many cases it is safe to purchase Fair-trade certified coffee beans. The Fair-trade standard ensures that a coffee farm was paid appropriately, that child labor was not used in the harvesting, pesticides and other chemicals were under a certain threshold. A few restaurant chains are beginning to offer socially responsible options. McDonalds recently started serving 100% Rainforest Alliance certified espresso drinks, Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts offer Fair-trade options, and retailers such as Target carry fairly traded organic coffee beans and grounds. My personal favorite is Three Avocados, a not for profit coffee company that sells organic fair trade coffee and donates their net proceeds to ensure people of Uganda have access to clean drinking water, and the children of Nicaragua have access to an education. This is an effective illustration of coffee helping coffee producing nations further develop their respective communities which unfortunately has not been the case in the past.

Coffee isn’t just a beverage in many people’s lives; it serves a role in societies, friendships and businesses. As a human race we have to live fairly, and we have to be willing to pay more for a cup of coffee, and ensure that those doing the hard labor of cultivating the crop are paid appropriately. Drink coffee, but drink it responsibly, don’t consume a cup of brewed child exploitation, sustained poverty and environmental devastation.