My Op-ed rewrite

So my professor suggested a rewrite of my original op-ed to be a little more focused. So I ended up writing an article about Fair Trade, surprise, surprise. HA! Here it is.

Sometimes one plane ride can change the course of your entire life. In 2006 my life changed after a vacation to India, for two weeks, over Thanksgiving.

From the moment I stepped off the plane in New Delhi, the smells, the sights, and the stark contrasts infiltrated my senses.

I saw so many things in those weeks: a sherbet colored sunset over the centuries-old castle at Fatehpur Skiri, beautifully crafted art at the Dilli Haat, people full of life and joy, and then, a dead body lying in the streets, a child beggar who danced when given only 20 rupees (50 cents), while I brushed my teeth with bottled water in a luxurious four bedroom, five bathroom apartment.

There, I told beggars, as is recommended, “I’m sorry; I only give to organizations.” I wanted to keep that promise, but in a way that would make real change, not just charity. By finding a way to help people that would transform their lives forever, not just that one dancing moment.

When I returned to the US, I scoured the internet and discovered the “Fair Trade” Movement.

Fair Trade is a way of doing business which connects producers to consumers while apportioning the producer a fair share of the purchase price.

Fair Trade evens the playing field for the poorest farmers by: requiring transparency from the entire supply chain, organizing producers into democratic cooperatives, using indigenous, modern and sustainable farming practices. Fair Trade is still business, but in a more ethical way; without exploitation, with democracy and subsidiary.

Slowly, the Fair Trade movement overtook my life until, I found, I needed a merger between my work and my volunteer selves.  By chance, I discovered a graduate program, at Columbia University, a Master of Science in Sustainability Management. Perfect! This would allow me reshape my business experience into a new job which included a social mission-I hoped.

Happily, I was accepted into the Fall 2012 cohort. In October, the Earth Institute held its annual State of the Planet conference. There, speakers from all over the globe connected poverty and sustainability in a way that inspired me, moved me, and reinforced my own beliefs.

At this conference, Jan Eliasson, the UN Deputy Secretary-General said we need “A strategy centered on equity — on sustainable development and human rights — on placing people and the planet first.” Over and over, the thread that the issues of sustainability, labor, and poverty are linked to each other, showed itself.

I was surprised to find that not everyone felt the same. Some of my colleagues find these challenges too overwhelming to be breached, a very few are simply bigoted and don’t bother about “those” people.

There are certainly others, who feel as I do, that ending poverty is an important component of sustainability, and that clean water is a human right, not just an environmental issue.  They believe, as I do, that until we take on the deep challenges of poverty, we cannot heal the planet.

My first semester, in a sustainable water class, the final project was a study of the Bagmati River in Nepal. In the minds of many, including my group at the outset of our project, industries pollute rivers and therefore must be causing the water quality issues.

Water pollution is often measured by Biologic Oxygen Demand (BOD); the higher the BOD the less oxygen is in the water, as it’s replaced by pollutants. Less oxygen means fish and other aquatic life that still “breathe” oxygen through the water, cannot exist.

Surprisingly, we found that only 4.3% of the BOD pollution in the Bagmati River comes from industry. Actually, the greatest pollution is caused by the biologic waste of people living in shanty towns near the river, a nice way of saying that, the river is their toilet.

Here, poverty is the direct cause of the pollution, which has damaged the ecosystem, and with it the livelihoods of fishermen, creating even more poverty.

Fair Trade can provide solutions for similar pollution and poverty, by helping farmers stay on their own land, in the countryside. Besides increasing incomes, cooperative members democratically decide on how to use dues/fees: building latrines, a well, or a school, whatever is most needed.

One day I will return to India to visit a Fair Trade weaving cooperative which now makes many of the clothes in my closet.  I have learned, through Fair Trade and graduate school, that each dollar spent votes for a better Earth and justice for her people. I’d like for others to learn this lesson too.

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Posting again!

Ok, so I am going to start posting again. I am taking a journalism class at school, and decided I will post my homework, and then start writing some op-ed pieces after its over. I am liking the op-ed thing 🙂 First one is here:

Poverty, Prejudice and Sustainability. 

Sometimes one plane ride can change the course of your entire life. In 2006 my life changed after a vacation to India, for two weeks, over Thanksgiving. From the moment I stepped of the plane in New Delhi, the smells, the sights, and the stark contrasts infiltrated my senses.  I saw so many things in those weeks; a sherbet colored sun-set over the centuries old castle at Fatehpur Skiri, beautifully crafted art at the Dilli Haat, people full of life and joy, and then, a dead body lying in the streets, a child beggar who danced when given only 20 rupees (50 cents), while having to brush my teeth with bottled water in a luxurious four bedroom, five bathroom apartment.

There, I told beggars, as is recommended, “I’m sorry; I only give to organizations.” When I came back home I wanted to keep that promise, but in a way that would make real change, not just charity. Clean water was a place to start; it affected everyone rich and poor, expect the rich could afford tanked water delivery. While trolling Google for ideas, I came across “Fair Trade.” I learned that Fair Trade evens the playing field for the poorest farmers; organizing democratic cooperatives, using indigenous, modern and sustainable farming practices, while impacting/providing clean water. Fair Trade is a better way of doing business; employing sound business practices while working to end the direst poverty. Slowly, the Fair Trade movement overtook my life until, I found, I needed a merger between my work and my volunteer selves.  By chance, I discovered a graduate program, at Columbia University – a Master of Science in Sustainability Management. Perfect! This would allow me reshape my business experience into a new job which included a social mission – I hoped.

Happily, I was accepted into the Fall 2012 cohort. In October, the Earth Institute held its State of the Planet conference. There, speakers from all over the globe connected poverty and sustainability in a way that inspired me, moved me, and reinforced my own beliefs. Jan Eliasson said, “…we need to put people and the planet first.” Over and over, the thread that sustainability, labor, and poverty are linked showed itself.

I was surprised to find that not everyone felt the same. Some sustainability professionals and students are uninterested in environmental justice, unaware of Fair Trade, and there are a very few who are simply bigoted. There are certainly others, who feel as I do, that ending poverty is an important component of sustainability, and that clean water is a human right, not just an environmental issue – these have become my close friends.  They know as I do that until we take on the deep challenges of poverty we cannot heal the planet.

My first semester, in a sustainable water class, the final project was a study of the Bagmati River in Nepal. In the minds of many, including my group at the outset of our project, industries pollute rivers and therefore must be causing the water quality issues. Water pollution is often measured by Biologic Oxygen Demand (BOD); the higher the BOD the less oxygen is in the water, as it’s replaced by pollutants. Less oxygen means fish and other aquatic life that still “breathes” oxygen through the water, cannot exist. Surprisingly, we found that only 4.3% of the BOD pollution in the Bagmati River comes from industry. Actually, the greatest pollution is caused by the people living in shanty towns near the river, and their human biologic waste. A nice way of saying, the river is their toilet. Here, poverty is the direct cause of the pollution, which has damaged the ecosystem, and with it the livelihoods of fishermen, creating even more poverty.

Poverty contributes to the destruction of the planet. Until we find a way to address the complicated problems, like exploitative labor, as well as the more straightforward ones, like industrial pollution, we cannot begin to effect change. Sustainability must be more than carbon tax and environmental regulation. There are many facets to sustainability which must be bridged – sustainable development, public health, green infrastructure, environmental justice. For once, the best solution is “all of the above”. Only by working together can we save one other.

One day I will return to India to visit a Fair Trade weaving cooperative which now makes many of the clothes in my closet.  Because I have learned that each dollar I spend, votes for a better Earth and justice for her people.

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Its Spring Break!

So its spring break this week. I am going to attempt to be a tourist in NYC, although today I just took a nap after teaching lol. So hopefully I will be uploading photos of my excursions 🙂 Keep you posted, and if you have any recommendations, let me know!

 

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One year already?

So arounnnndd this time last year, I had just gotten to England. I was reflecting on the plane back to NYC, after Christmas, how much things have changed, how much I have changed. I had the best holiday I have had in years at home with my family. I have now lived two places outside of California. I have traveled alone, a lot. Conquered my fears, found my way, settled my itch.  (Ok so I wrote this in the beginning of Feb, shame on me)

I went to a career fair Friday (March 1) and a lot of the jobs were on the east coast. Which was to be expected, and overall it went great for me, hopefully something will come out of it. As a bonus, it did two things, first, reassured me I will certainly get a job after all school. Not guaranteeing any salary, but I’ll have A JOB, ha. Second, I don’t know if I want to stay east indefinitely  But I also don’t think I want to graduate in August, or even December. The idea of getting a job then taking one class in Summer, two in fall, and capstone in Spring, is starting to sound perfect. Added bonus, then I can walk in May, you know, in an actual graduation.  This gives me a little more time on the east coast, some more money to enjoy NY and maybe a little trip back to Bath. And did I say mention money for cabs in NY in the winter, and the summer when I feel like I’m dying. My mom says, you know you are Cali born and raised, its not in your blood, lol.

I do miss my house, my family – or at least not needing to take a plane at the holidays, and mostly my crew(s). Because I have just hit the year mark, the missing is really setting in now. And its winter, we stay in more, and I miss the girls at my house, ordering in, pausing the movie 15 times for discussion, lol. I am enjoying NY though. I can not lie, I have an amazing life.

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I survived Hurricane Sandy :)

So its Wed. and things in NYC are starting to return to normal.  I am going to one class today, and the other is cancelled.  Classes Monday, Tuesday and technically Wednesday were cancelled, since the subway isn’t working. Buses are supposed to start running almost full schedules today.

Being from California, Sandy was my first hurricane.  (I’ve had earthquakes a plenty though.) It actually was a little weird/scary since I was not my usual UBER prepared self. At home I have this super gadget, with flashing yellow lights, a buzzer, a radio, a lantern and a few more features I can’t recall.  (At this moment, I have no idea where that thing is! Probably in storage somewhere) I always have lots of canned goods, and I have a portable bbq that is my emergency stove. (Which I think is in my downstairs storage in El Segundo) I also have like 12 flashlights, a water stand with 5+ gallons of water in it, and an additional 3 gallon jugs under the counter. Here I had none of that. We filled the bathtub with water, we have two flashlights, three gallons of water, two liters of seltzer, three vitamin waters, two bottles of champagne, and we checked to make sure we had enough cold things we could eat without cooking or heating. I think I drove Nimaako crazy because I kept looking in the fridge assessing if we had enough water and cold food, ha!

In the end we came through completely unscathed.  We didn’t loose power, water, nothing, unlike the rest of Manhattan.  I was exciting every night I went to bed with power, in unbelief that I could be so lucky.  Another reason to love Harlem, its elevation is so high and we are far enough inland, that we were protected.  Just another sign that I am meant to be here: in this time, in this place, with these people. I am so grateful for all that I have and all that I am.  And…

HOORAY FOR HARLEM!!!!

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Amazing day….

Ok so its been, um, like two months since I posted but, you know school, adjusting blah blah. I am going to do better, now that I am mostly settled and I don’t feel like my skin is melting off every day from the extreme NY heat (ha!).

School is going well, I am learning so much.  My classes are effecting the way I see everything in the world.  Don’t get me wrong, Fair Trade is still my focus, more so the more I am learning. Yesterday I went to the Columbia State of the Planet 2012 Conference. Which started at 9am (ug!) but I made it.  And it was totally worth it, I tweeted a bunch of quotes.  It was very heartening that so many UN leaders can see that ending poverty effects ending climate change, war, and environmental degradation.  It was also nice to see a trend toward combining indigenous knowledge and technology to find new solutions.

Then I had lunch with my new friend Susanna  who’s close to my own age. We talked about our goals, and the program and it was just really amazing to have someone to relate to. And I studied, you know the usual. Then I went to a screening of “A Thirsty World”.  I cried. It was a beautiful film.  We need to find a way to use it in FT or CRS work. It went into what I have been saying all along, that without water, people have nothing.  It also talked a lot about sanitation, which is awesome. And the cinematography was phenomenal.

I have to admit, part of the reason I got up early was because my new friend Flakë met me there and I was accountable to someone.  But I really want to try to take advantage of all the opportunities Columbia U. has to offer.  Good job me!

You can see more about State of the Planet here http://stateoftheplanet.org/ 

And “A Thirsty World” here http://www.yannarthusbertrand.org/en/films/project/projectID/15

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Long time (oops) but in NYC!

So I just realized I haven’t posted since my birthday, OOPS! Well life is going great.  I moved to New York.  All my stuff got here ok – well mostly, I had one pan dented in transit.  Nimaako, my new roommate, as of today, have bought everything we need.  I am still waiting for my mattress to arrive and we need to do a little painting but we are basically there! YAYAY!

I had orientation all week, which went well, and I registered for classes.  I still need to meet with my adviser, which I am doing tomorrow, but I thought I should at least save myself a space in the classes I want.  I’m a little tired from all the running around, but not too bad.

So far, I like NYC.  I like the walking, even though I am HOT half the time but its nice to be so active again. Tuesday however we had torrential rain, which I was caught out in, with no umbrella.  It took 24 hours for my clothes to dry. Yeah it was that bad. It was horrible after the rain stopped, I was literally dripping everywhere, but during the storm, was lovely! Like being a kid again.

Classes start Tuesday, we’ll see how it goes!

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Happy Birthday to me :)

So I haven’t posted in a while.  Its been busy since I’ve been home.  Catching up with everyone, hanging out, having fun! I had a fabulous birthday weekend and few days after, including happy hour Wed. with my SB friends.  It’s been amazing to be home.  I have been able to see almost everyone already.  Gotten through my to do list, oh and I resolved my stupid vaccination debacle with Columbia, and found just about everything I have been looking for, including my beach hat.  I miss my little routine in England, but its nice to be home with everyone.  And its been awesome at my moms.  We laugh, a lot, about crazy things; Mom and Niqui are bonkers, in the best way possible lol.  So in short, life right now feels perfect.  This weekend to the Bay for Drea and Amelia’s birthdays. Whoohooo road trip!!!

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Not as bad as I thought!

So I finished unpacking today.  Everything is out of my England suitcases, put away, and in some cases repacked for New York.  I’ve got one bag fully packed, and another partially packed.  I still need to file my papers and find homes for my souvenirs but essentially I am done.  Being not nearly as bad as I thought makes me feel like, its going to be a lot less stressful than it could be.  It might just be my attitude, I feel a lot more focused and less overwhelmed then ever before.  Maybe those five months among the English helped 🙂 Don’t get me wrong still lots to do, but for today, those things can be done on the couch watching TV.  Happy Independence Day!

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A sentimental moment, 30,000 feet up….

Monday, June 19, 2012, 4:15pm GMT, on board Royal Air Maroc Flight AT800, Casablanca to London.

In this moment, I feel every emotion.  On my flight back from my last continent, two weeks from going home; a chapter of my life is truly closing and a new one opening.  After this so much will be different. I am different.  I even see my mom in a new, and I think healthy way.  I see myself in a new way.  I am proud of my life from 17, when I feel like this chapter started, to (soon to be) 34 when it is ending and a new one beginning.  One where I have bathed in the water and fire of trial and redemption, of getting everything I ever wanted and then figuring out whats truly important; figuring out what life is made of, and what I am made of.  I am scared and happy and in my heart, still.  I feel like I am living in the space between heart beats.  Before the storm finds me again.  I have made every continent,  I have lived abroad, and in the next chapter I will finally have an advanced degree and hopefully a husband! In some ways I am anxious to get home.  Well actually for the first time since January I really want to go home, and stay there.  I’ll miss England for sure (although not this pants summer).  But more than anything, I miss my friends.  This trip to Morocco reminded me how much.  It reminded me of India and the difference was great company (And a large man didn’t hurt with the harassment I’m sure).  And for the first time I’ve accepted myself as an extrovert.  I can’t do my entire life alone.  I don’t mind being alone, but I love my full life at home.  Friends who know me and love me anyways, who are my true sisters .  Sorors who fulfill the extrovert part of me, who make me laugh and give me purpose.  A great family who even though they aren’t as much like me as I once thought are still awesome; and we laugh like crazy people.  I think what I’ve missed the most about my life full of people is the laughing.  The gut wrenching, stomach ache, sore muscle making laugh.  I can’t wait to get home and laugh till I cry.  I missed you all very much.  And while I wouldn’t trade these past six months for anything, trust that I’ll never leave you again.

 

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