Seeking Asylum, Seeking Peace
Ghussoun al Hasan, a young Syrian mother, nervously fidgets with her garments as she sits for an interview in her Michigan home. She has been through a lot. After witnessing the death of her 27-year-old brother during Syria’s Civil War in 2011 by armed forces, she and her family barricaded themselves in their home, hoping to steer clear of the war going on outside. As the violence her country was plagued with and her fear for her children’s safety increased, al Hasan and her husband decided to leave their home and join twelve (12) million other Syrian citizens seeking an escape from imminent death. al Hasan recollects on her and her family’s extensive pilgrimage from their home in Syria’s capital of Damascus to the United States — describing her fear of having her three children kidnapped. They traveled from Damascus to Yabroud, a region near the border of Lebanon, to other areas of the Middle East until she decided that the United States was the only place she and her family would be promised a safe atmosphere. She was aware of the difficult process of getting into the United States but she was determined to provide herself and her children a safe life. Eventually, she was able to arrive in Dearborn, Michigan and obtain permanent residence in the United States.
Many like Ghussoun al Hasan are fleeing violence and destruction in their home countries in search of a better, safer life. Some who flee the violence are not as lucky as she and either remain in refugee camps for long periods of time, or are killed trying to desperately avoid danger. Syrian refugees, like Ghussoun, who are successful in getting into the United States are then faced with another barrier: animosity from Americans. Most Americans are not too happy with the idea of allowing foreigners onto their soil. [Syrian] refugees are “…welcomed by Americans, but not American politicians,” to be exact. This is where their hope diminishes; they escape from the grasps of their country’s violence and survive only to be met with hostility, discrimination, and disgust from the people who constantly preach about rights. This is an issue that will not be going away any time soon and therefore, must be constantly addressed. Although many conservative Americans oppose the welcoming of Syrian refugees into the United States due to fear of terrorism and change in culture, we should indeed offer refuge to those people fleeing extreme violence and poverty.
As human beings with rights and dignity, it should be our duty to ensure that everyone else, no matter their location in the world, is being treated accordingly. We are brothers and sisters and we must protect each other and make the effort to provide each other with the essentials necessary for a healthy and safe life.
As the violence in Syria increases, the debate on whether to welcome the citizens caught in the crossfire is heating up. Should we welcome them all? Should we close our borders? Who do we actually want to admit into the United States? These questions, and many similar, are the basis for the debate on what to do regarding the situation.
Many argue that allowing refugees into the United States would be a National Security risk and would result in terrorism. Because of conflict in the Middle East, many Americans have a hostile and ignorant attitude towards Middle Eastern individuals and believe them to hold only malicious intentions. That is far from the truth. According to White House Secretary, Jeh Johnson, the majority of the refugees from Syria are women and young children who lost or were separated from their families and are searching for a safe place to live. In addition to this, he adds that a person cannot be allowed into the United States without going through the legal process of being considered a ‘refugee’. This 21-step process takes approximately eighteen (18) to twenty-four (24) months depending on the process of the documentation the person provides government officials. During this time, the individual is subject to extensive background checks, interviews, and screenings from United States National Security bureaus; the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), The Department of Homeland Security, The Department of Defense, and the list goes on.
If fear of terrorism is the main concern, we should look at all white males between the ages of fifteen and fifty-five as possible serial killers or mass murderers, no? Does not sound logical, right? We should not allow the actions of one individual to be the stepping stone for the way we view other individuals of that same race, ethnicity, or religion. Our national security is a major priority to many of us and it is understandable why many Americans are fearful of welcoming foreign individuals onto their land. This, however, is no reason to hold such a rancor attitude towards an entire group of people. We are better than that. Our people have done bad things as well but does that indicate that we are all bad people? No.
In continuation with the argument countering the belief that welcoming Syrians would harm our national security, it should be noted that this fear that many Americans have has been acknowledged by the White House. Terrorism is an occurrence that, unfortunately, cannot be obliterated. But it can be contained. Closing our borders to all refugees or to refugees of a particular religion and letting other nations to crumble is not the approach to take.
The United States Government is not admitting just anyone. As Deputy Homeland Security Advisor and Deputy Assistant to the President at the National Security Council, Amy Pope said, their intention is to allow entrance to the “…most vulnerable Syrians.” These most vulnerable Syrians being the women, children, and families, escaping the violence and poverty they face in their home country.
Another objection many Americans have on the welcoming of Syrian refugees is the cost of maintaining them. They fear that with bringing in more people, that the United States economy will suffer and many American citizens would be left without jobs. This is not what will actually happen. According to Juliane Ramic of Nationalities Service Center, a center that provides aid to refugees freshly entering the country, refugees who are admitted into the United States are required to accept any job offered to them. These jobs, as she describes them, are not “ideal” and include things like working in kitchens of restaurants or jobs that pay these adult individuals wages only seen given to teenage high school students (Refugee Panel). So no, refugees who are admitted into the United States are not taking your corporate jobs, nor are they being shown favoritism. Ramic also says that refugees are offered such poor quality jobs because employers take advantage of their naivety and offer them employment no other American would even consider.
Furthermore, if these refugees are as fortunate as Ghussoun al Hasan to pass the requirements needed to even get on a plane to the United States, they are already in debt the moment they step foot on American soil. Since they do not have any money (hence, one of the reasons why they need refuge), they are loaned the plane ticket they used to catch a flight to the United States. Once they arrive in the United States, they are then officially indebted to the organization which aided them in arriving. They then have approximately five (5) months to pay off that loan. In addition, refugees are given a total of eight (8) months of free Medicaid, housing, and employment. Afterwards, they are on their own.
When the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred, almost every country in the world stood in solidarity with us and expressed their condolences. Countries and their leaders from all around the world stood with us while others offered as much help as they could. So why can we not stand in solidarity with other countries? We are a nation made up of individuals who pride themselves on patriotism, but they are mixing ignorance with said pride and it is harming the foundation of this country. The more than thirty (30) American governors who oppose the welcoming of Syrian refugees into the United States are letting their limited information cloud their judgement.
In the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we are informed of the multitude of rights we, as individuals of society, have that are protected by the law. For example, article 14 of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that any individual “…has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” Are Syrian refugees not seeking protection from the political genocide happening in their country? Furthermore, article 2 of this document states that every individual is entitled to all the rights and freedoms mentioned in the Constitution and are not to be subjected to any exceptions no matter that individual’s religion, “…political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which [they] belong [to].” Every person does indeed have a right to voice their opinions [as stated in article 19] but to deny innocent and vulnerable individuals the right to a safe life is uncalled for.
This issue of refugee resettlement is a test to our compassion; it is testing how far we are willing to go to lend a hand. And frankly, we have been very disappointing. We should not allow hypocrisy to get the best of us. We cannot promote generosity and then deny refuge to people coming to us in need of it. We are the country that is always there to offer our kind words and condolences when tragic events happen in other countries. Abandoning this principle of refugee settlements would result in our integrity and reliability being questioned. Our nation is a nation of pride, honor, and respect. Turning our backs on this principle would make what we stand for useless.
Many find the complexity of this issue too difficult for them to attempt to come up with ideas to solve it. As someone who once had the same mentality, I understand the feeling. But I quickly learned that no matter how large — or how out-of-my-hands — the issue may seem, I can still make the effort to carry out my duty to provide aid when I am in the position to do so. Addressing and educating others on the issue is the first part. It is the hardest part, I will admit, considering all the differing and contradicting opinions. But having knowledge that you can share with others, leaving them seriously thinking, is great. Surprisingly, spreading awareness to get people’s attention is one of the easiest things one can do. We need to inform others so that this issue does not continue to reach epidemic proportions. We need to educate our fellow Americans and set the record straight in regards to the actualities of this issue.
Actually doing something to alleviate the problem, is the next step. Standing by and allowing the fear of change or violence to dictate a nation is wrong and unacceptable. Initiatives need to be made in order to ensure that the safety and well-being of others is a priority. We cannot allow innocent lives to be sacrificed in a pointless and selfish war. We are a nation, we are a union, we are the future. We can still maintain our high priority of National Security without turning our backs on our fellow brothers and sisters. Getting the attention of governors, congressmen and women, and government officials, are ways we can further make evident that support for this issue is not going unnoticed.
As an immigrant myself, I know what it feels like to leave your birth home and start fresh in an unfamiliar place; forced to speak another language, forced to dress a certain way, fearful of rejection. But I did not leave my country for the same reasons as these Syrian refugees. I can acknowledge that I was privileged enough to not flee my country out of fear. I can acknowledge that I did not have to experience the perils that these individuals are currently experiencing. I can acknowledge that I do have privilege; that I have a roof over my head, food on my table, my family together. I can acknowledge all of this and still do something for those who are not in the same position as me. That is something that I believe is important. As Americans, we have to acknowledge that even though we have our own dilemmas right here at home, that we continue to be privileged individuals no matter what. Everyone’s problems are different but it should be our duty to let those individuals who are facing worse dilemmas than ours know that we are here for them and that we care.
I have only been in college for approximately four months and I must say that all I have been exposed to in this short amount of time, has taught me more than in my four years of high school. All of this has made me realize that I have an opportunity that not many college students take advantage of: the opportunity to use my voice to inform and educate a community. I have always said that teaching someone something new is one of the most rewarding things ever. I have learned that educating others — although trying at times — is such a powerful thing. The power to educate [and be good at it] is a quality I find exceptionally important.
I have learned the importance of having knowledge on and being involved in social justice awareness. Being a part of a movement and an organization [like Tame the Change and Catholic Relief Services] aimed at informing others on the seriousness of their actions on the environment, as well as the importance of knowing what is happening in countries outside of our own, has been amazing. I have also learned the importance of appreciation and compassion. Knowing that someone, somewhere, is in a position worse than the one I am in, allowed me to gain a deeper understanding for the struggles of those individuals. As someone who believed to have a sufficient amount of knowledge in some of the areas we discussed in class, I was in awe to realize that I had so much more learning to do. That is a lesson I have learned from my time in this course: that no matter how much I thought I already knew about something, there was always more out there to know. This is a crucial lesson that I would like people in both the opposing and supporting sides of this refugee debate to realize: that no matter how much you think you know about something, there will always be more information to obtain — we just have to refrain from speaking and do a little listening to see things from a different perspective.
Dec. 03 — Final Paper Intro Story and Thesis (draft)
Ghussoun al Hasan, a young Syrian mother, nervously fidgets with her garments as she sits for an interview in her Michigan home. She has been through a lot. After witnessing the death of her 27-year-old brother during Syria’s Civil War in 2011 by armed forces, she and her family barricaded themselves in their home, hoping to save themselves from the war going on outside. As the violence her country was plagued with and her fear for her children’s safety increased, al Hasan and her husband decided to leave their home and join twelve (12) million other Syrian citizens seeking an escape from imminent death. al Hasan describes her and her family’s extensive pilgrimage from her home in Syria’s capital of Damascus to the United States — describing her main fear of having her three children kidnapped. Traveling from Damascus to Yabroud, a region near the border of Lebanon, to other areas in the Middle East until she decided that the United States was the only place she’ll be promised a safe atmosphere. She was aware of the difficult process of getting into the United States but she was determined to provide herself and her children a safe life. Eventually, she was able to arrive in Dearborn, Michigan and obtain permanent residence in the United States.
Many like Ghussoun al Hasan are fleeing violence and destruction in their home countries in search of a better, safer life. Some who flee the violence are not as lucky as her and either remain in refugee camps for long periods of time, or are killed trying to desperately avoid danger. Syrian refugees, like Ghussoun, who are lucky enough to get into the United States are then faced with another barrier: animosity from Americans. Most Americans are not too happy with the idea of allowing foreigners onto their soil. [Syrian] refugees are “welcomed by Americans, but not American politicians,” to be exact. This is where their hope diminishes; they escape from the grasps of their country’s violence and survive only to be met with hostility, discrimination, and disgust from the people who constantly preach about rights.
This is an issue that will not be going away any time soon and therefore, must be constantly addressed. Although many conservative Americans oppose the welcoming of Syrian refugees into the United States due to fear of terrorism and change in culture, we should indeed offer refuge to those people fleeing extreme violence and poverty.
Nov. 19 — Intro Story (Revised 12/02)
Ghussoun al Hasan, a young Syrian mother, nervously fidgets with her garments as she sits for an interview in her Michigan home. She has been through a lot. After witnessing the death of her 27-year-old brother during Syria’s Civil War in 2011 by armed forces, she and her family barricaded themselves in their home, hoping to save themselves from the war going on outside. As the violence her country was plagued with and her fear for her children’s safety increased, al Hasan and her husband decided to leave their home and join twelve (12) million other Syrian citizens seeking an escape from imminent death. al Hasan describes her and her family’s extensive pilgrimage from her home in Syria’s capital of Damascus to the United States — describing her main fear of having her three children kidnapped. Traveling from Damascus Yabroud, a region near the border of Lebanon, to other areas in the Middle East until she decided that the United States was the only place she’ll be promised a safe atmosphere. She was aware of the difficult process of getting into the United States but she was determined to provide herself and her children a safe life. Eventually, she was able to arrive in Dearborn, Michigan. and obtain permanent residence in the United States.
Many like Ghussoun al Hasan are fleeing violence and destruction in their home countries in search of a better, safer life. Some who flee the violence are not as lucky as her and either remain in refugee camps for long periods of time, or are killed trying to desperately avoid danger. Syrian refugees, like Ghussoun, who are lucky enough to get into the United States are then faced with another barrier: animosity from Americans. Most Americans aren’t too happy with the idea of allowing foreigners onto their soil. [Syrian] refugees are “welcomed by Americans, but not American politicians,” to be exact. This is where their hope diminishes; they escape from the grasps of their country’s violence and survive only to be met with hostility, discrimination, and disgust from the people who constantly preach about rights.
Nov. 17 — Reflection
- I hadn’t thought much about global issues before I started this course due to the fact that I was never exposed to information concerning them nor had I even considered “wasting my time” on thinking of them. If I had the mentality I have now, I would have definitely had a different outlook on the world. Before, if someone mentioned the phrase “global issues,” I’d automatically think of the wars between nations and not on the other aspects of it all. I was always the one kid in my fifth and sixth grade classes who would rush home after school so that she wouldn’t miss CNN’s or HLN’s daily news programming. And for this, when I got to high school, I always believed that I knew enough or more than I should of at the time. But when I started this course, I realized that I had so much more to learn.
- Before I started this course, I hadn’t thought about Climate change at all. And when it was brought up in discussions, I would see it and refer to it as something made up by “Save The World” extremists. But I’m proud to say that I’ve shed that ignorant mentality and I have a completely different outlook on it. In the past, I acknowledged that it was real and that it was something that was happening in some way, but I didn’t feel that discussing that issue was as important as immigration, or gun control, or the wage gap. I’ll admit that I had a very politically conservative way of looking at [Climate Change]; as in, it wasn’t affecting me directly so I didn’t need to focus on it at the moment. But I’m glad that I no longer have such a mentality and that I have been educated and informed in a more proper manner.
- I was impacted by those three issues greatly. Learning about the heinous work that went into making something as simple as the wrinkled T-shirts I have in the back of my closet, reading Enrique’s Journey and connecting to his struggle of migrating from one country to the next, which was something so personal and special to me, and delving deep into Climate Change and the causes as well as the effects of this invisible villain and learning of ways that I can do my part to control it from getting worse. Although these were all such strong and controversial issues, I must say that I was engaged and impacted the most by the learning of Climate Change. Throughout the entire course, thus far, the issues that we’ve discussed have all touched me in some way or another but the process that went into our focal point of Climate Change was the most unforgettable. It was a topic that was so complex on its own and that using it as the focus of our Cabrini Day project was so overwhelming at first. But it was impressive to see how well we conducted ourselves and how much of an effort we put into making sure we had all the information down and that we understood it. It involved a lot of late night brainstorming and loss of sleep but the result was great. This area of focus was by far the most difficult, but it was the most rewarding (no pun intended).
- I learned about Climate Change through the extensive research that I conducted in and out of the classroom. But in terms of my individual learning of the issue, it was a very trying, or difficult, process. Difficult because of the topic’s complexity but also difficult for me to initially grasp the fact that I was at fault for the continuation of this phenomenon in some way or another. It was also very difficult when I finally understood my role in all of it but I couldn’t figure out a way to present that to an audience of individuals who didn’t have the same ECG class as I or whose mentalities were at the same level as mine from before I started the course. In the end, I realized that I had this awesome opportunity to educate other people on an issue that they knew nothing about but that I spent months prior to Cabrini Day researching and understanding. Overall, the process of grasping an understanding of the overview, the contributions by humans to, and the effects of Climate Change, helped me in discovering how it all tied in with our daily lives and activities and what we can do to help. Which in turn, allowed me to be able to relay that to people as they walked through our simulation.
- There is most definitely a difference between my attitude before this course started and now. I have matured and grown and have begun to see the world much differently. I have realized that even though I’m not as important as some people (I’m not a celebrity or well-known individual), that I can still care for my environment and for others in less fortunate situations than I and make efforts to provide aid. As I’ve said before, I have shed this ignorant mentality that I once had in which I believed that if it wasn’t affecting me personally then it wasn’t my business nor my place to care. Especially when we focused on Enrique’s Journey and touched base on immigration. This was a social justice issue that I held very close to my heart and that I believed I knew a lot about considering what I experienced. But I soon discovered that I didn’t know as much as I thought. Especially when we focused on Climate Change and our contributions to the worsening of the environment, it helped me see that as a living creature on this planet, I am in charge of its treatment. I have developed an even greater amount of compassion, not just in reference to Climate Change and it’s effects on the environment, but on those in poorer conditions than I. My attitude towards my involvement in social justice issues has improved and has slowly turned me into a more aware individual.
- Mackenzie’s (our classroom coach) determination to make our Cabrini Day experience unforgettable was one of the things that made my Cabrini Day experience so great. During preparations for the Big Day, she was a very big contributor to making sure that we stayed on track and that we stayed within the limits of our focus. She knew when to jump in and help us out but she also knew when to step back and let us figure things out on our own. Her own previous experience with preparations for the project gave us insight into what we should’ve expected to see and I was very grateful (and relieved) that we had someone else on our team that wasn’t going to allow us to go into organizing this project without knowing what to expect. Without her advice and her efforts to make this experience a great one for us, I don’t think our understanding of some of the concepts of this course and of this project would’ve registered for us the way that they did.
- I would explain Cabrini’s mission of Education of the Heart as a purification of one’s self; learning to mature from the inside. An Education of the Heart is an education of one’s soul; a growth within one’s spiritual being. For me, when someone acquires an Education of the Heart, it means that they have evolved and developed into intelligent and highly aware individuals. It means that they have looked beyond the limitations that society has set for them and they’ve learned to be compassionate, empathetic, and wise in more ways than from a textbook education.
Nov. 12 — What I Learned From Our Project
This Cabrini Day project was one of the best experiences I’ve had so far here at Cabrini. I’ve learned that I can make a difference simply by educating myself and doing my part by working towards bringing about a change. When we first began talking about Climate Change, I didn’t think I’d understand any of it. But I did. Soon after, I became overwhelmed with the thought of having to present on something that I had no idea what I — an 18-year-old college freshman — was going to do to alleviate this dilemma. I quickly realized that the concept of all this was not to solve this century old issue in a matter of weeks, but to try and figure out ways that we, as a community of intelligent individuals, can start or join a movement that can help in possibly achieving that goal. As a result of doing this project, I’ve learned that no matter how big or how out of my hands a social justice issue may seem, that I can make a difference no matter how small of a gesture I make towards solving or bringing attention to that issue. I’ve also learned to be patient and understanding of the reasons and logic behind others’ thinking and perspectives. For example, I’ve learned to not look at people who believe that Climate Change is a bogus social construct as unintelligent or as lost causes, but rather as an opportunity for me to showcase the knowledge that I’ve acquired as a means to properly inform them. I’ve learned that you can’t get through to an audience with fancy words and long, complicated numbers, but rather through conversation, dialogue, and visual presentation. A problem isn’t solved by throwing numbers at someone and hoping they’ll understand, it’s solved through impacting and captivating them in ways they’ll recognize the issue, take that information with them, and take small steps in the efforts to be a reason for improvement.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that some of my decisions greatly affect others; that by me choosing something that can simplify my life, I could possibly be complicating someone else’s in the process. Overall, I’ve learned to be more aware of my decisions and to be more compassionate towards my environment. And those are some of the greatest qualities one can have; awareness and appreciation for things and people that although may seem like they have no initial significance to our lives, but that are interwoven in the lives of us all in some way or another.
Aside from becoming further informed and educated on the topic of Climate Change and its negative effects on more than just the environment, I grew to realize just how much of a family this COM LC has become. We started off as strangers with only one thing in common (same major) and we’ve slowly become closer. I believe that if it wasn’t for our understanding of and respect for each other, as well as our determination to educate ourselves and create a great presentation, then we wouldn’t have had such the successful Cabrini Day that we did. I’m so glad that we all grew to realize that this was something that required a team effort and that without each other, we wouldn’t have gotten as far as we did.
Nov. 03 — Script
“Now that you’ve seen how some of your daily activities and decisions are damaging the environment, it’s your turn to act. By [signing this letter to President Obama; or signing this pledge to do better, etc.] you will be a part of this important movement to improve our environment and ensure a better, cleaner life for the future. [after they sign] Thank you for taking the first step. [then leave it open for any questions they may have] [as they walk away] Don’t forget: YOU can make a difference; [then yell] Tame the Change!”
Social Media Ideas:
- Follow as many Cabrini administration and club pages as possible, as well as pages associated with the Climate Change movement
- Use hashtags #TametheChange, #IAmClimateChange, #WeCanMakeADifference, #WeAreClimateChange, #WeAreTheFuture
- Have everyone in the class promote “Tame the Change” on their personal/professional Twitter accounts so that their friends can also spread the word and come see us
- Promote on Twitter or Facebook at least 2-3 times a day this week (using the hashtags) and increase it during the weekend
- Promote during Cabrini Day; we can alternate social media positions (while I’m talking to someone Mackenzie can take over and vice versa)
- 2 Elmer’s glue sticks (or one-pack of 2)
- Crayola colored pencils (box of 12 colors)
- Crayola washable markers (box of 8 colors)
- Crayola crayons (box of 24 colors)
- Regular Scotch tape (2 rolls)
- 2 energy saver (spiral) light bulbs
- 2 regular (egg-shaped) light bulbs
- We will provide the other necessary materials
Oct. 29 — Carbon Footprint
In Wednesday’s class, we researched the carbon footprint of excess electrical consumption. I decided to first take a more general route and I researched the carbon footprint of electricity as a whole. I discovered that the carbon footprint of electricity depends on the source of the fuel. For example, the production of coal causes a higher or stronger carbon footprint compared to other sources, like Natural Gases.
The use of non-energy efficient household appliances also adds on to the carbon footprint of electricity. The more watts or amount of metric millions of CO2 gas a machine releases, the more impact our carbon footprint has. This explains why it is recommended for households to begin transitioning into using energy efficient appliances. What I’ve found that is most interesting, though, is the continuous rise in the carbon footprint due to the excess use of electrical power. Most times numbers don’t affect people’s perspective of things, but from the graphics I found, maybe people should allow themselves to be affected.
Changing your electrical power consumption could help to minimize this. As we’ve said before, changing regular light bulbs to energy efficient ones, being mindful of the amount of time you leave your cell phone or laptop charging, cutting down on multitasking with electronics, and so on. Simple tasks like these can ultimately create bigger improvements and decrease the harmful imprint we’re leaving on this planet.
After that, thanks to John’s suggestion, we visited The Nature Conservancy website and we were able to measure our energy consumption through a personalized assessment. In this assessment, they asked about how many people live in our households, whether we wanted to measure our personal energy consumption or that of our entire household, and asked us questions about any efforts we made to improve our use of electricity.
At the end of the assessment, which only took less than 5 minutes, we were given a score of how well [or bad] we’re doing and how much money we would have to donate as a result of our answers. It was honestly very surprising and shameful to see the “scores” afterwards. I shamefully had to donate around $405 due to my excess use of energy. It’s shocking because so many other people do the same as me or worse. That helped put into perspective the true effects of our excess use of electrical power on the environment. Our imprint on this Earth is important and we should pay more attention to it.
Oct. 22 — How Electricity Contributes to Global Warming through the excess use of Fossil Fuel
It is no surprise that we get the electricity used to power our homes/institutions from power companies. But those power companies get the electricity you need by burning fossil fuels — like oil, coal, and natural gas. The process of burning these fossil fuels releases excess amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These released gases then warm the Earth by allowing sunlight in and blocking it from leaving thus contributing to global warming/climate change. This natural process is what is known as the “greenhouse effect.” But do not let the word natural fool you: our excess use/burning of fossil fuels worsens and enhances this, hence making the effects of this natural occurrence more destructive. This means that the more electricity we use, the more greenhouse gases (like CO2) are released, and the more greenhouse gases released, the higher the effects of climate change.
Pollution is a well known term; we almost all know what it means, what it is, what it does, and so on. But have you ever heard of “electrical pollution”? Probably not. Electrical pollution, also known as Dirty Electricity, is an invisible villain. Think about the pollution you are accustomed to seeing: landfills, dark clouds over industrial or power plants. Now imagine that in the form of electrical current. That pollution of electrical energy is all around us and it is causing an already worsening issue to persist. This type of pollution is basically the excess amount/use of electrical power by humans. A real life example would be when you are at home on a hot summer day, sitting in front of the TV watching your favorite show, while using your cell phone as it is charging nearby, with the air conditioner on full blast. All that electrical energy or current being used at the same time is electrical pollution. You would think that this benign-seeming, imperceptible thing could not possibly cause that much harm. But as I said before, the more electrical power we use the more we contribute to global warming while simultaneously helping other factors increase and heighten their contribution to said issue. Maybe if we went a little easy on the electricity (like not leave that laptop or cell phone charger plugged into the power socket even though it’s not in use, or leaving lights on in rooms where no one is in, or even putting air conditioners or space heaters on a timer) then we would not only save the planet, but save ourselves a few dollars on our next electric bill. Don’t you think?
- “Coal and Other Fossil Fuels: The use of fossil fuels has significant consequences.” UCSUSA. UCSUSA, n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels#.VieGSn6rS70
- “The Greenhouse Effect.” US EPA. US EPA, 20 August 2015. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. http://www3.epa.gov/climatechange/kids/basics/today/greenhouse-effect.html
- “The Hidden Costs of Fossil Fuels.” UCSUSA. UCSUSA, n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2015. http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/coal-and-other-fossil-fuels/the-hidden-cost-of-fossil.html#.VifURX6rS71
Oct. 20 — Lifestyle Choices and Climate Change
- Disposable Bottles vs. Reusable Containers
- Believe it or not, petroleum (the world’s most limited oil resource) is the main ingredient in the making of those plastic water bottles you can buy pretty much anywhere. This specific oil is also used in the distribution of the bottles. That is, the transportation used to distribute these water bottles uses petroleum to get shipments to their intended destinations. As you may know, that burning of fossil fuels and release of toxins into the air adds to the already polluted atmosphere on Earth. Recycling is, of course, important but not many people do it. A consequence to this is a rising number in trash creation that pollute beaches, streets, and rivers. Sometimes, all those bottles sit in a landfill decomposing and spreading even more toxins into the air. In addition, all that plastic isn’t just harmful to the planet but to your body as well. You think all those chemicals used to make that one bottle won’t catch up to you someday? Think again! The chemicals used to make the plastic bottles will sometimes leak into the water inside when placed in warm temperatures. If you want to put an end to this here’s how: next time you go to buy a plastic water bottle from your nearest convenience store, check the label to see where it came from (you’d be surprised of all the things you’d give up using or eating if you read that label). Another alternative to this is to use something other than a plastic bottle to hold your water. For instance, buying a reusable container from your local Walmart, Target, Kmart, etc. This will not only be one of the most money savvy things you can do, but you’ll be helping make our environment great. Why constantly buy water bottles when you can buy a filtered glass or metal reusable one and never have to spend a single cent on water again? It’ll take some time to get used to, I’ll admit, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it and be that cool kid saving the planet with your even cooler reusable container!
(Lee, Katherine. “The Negative Effects of Using Plastic Drinking Bottles.” Livestrong. Livestrong, 28 January 2014. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.
- Putting on your plate only what you will eat vs. Loading up your plate and throwing a portion away
- Sunday dinners with mom and dad are always great. Your mom always makes a butt-load of eye-catching food that you so generously pile your plate with. You make sure to add a little bit of everything (or maybe too much of a “little bit,” am I right?). You were so mesmerized with all the food that you only end up eating a smaller portion than you anticipated. It’s okay, though, you just throw out the rest. It’s only a couple scraps — you say — what’s so wrong about that? Well, there’s a lot wrong with that. Food waste is much more harmful than many see it to be; it affects not only those who don’t get enough of it or the economy, but it harms our environment and resources too. For example, the amount of carbon emissions from that wasted, uneaten food was estimated to contain 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases. All of that uneaten food has to be put somewhere right? Well it occupies about 3.5 billion acres of farming land which represents about thirty (30) percent of the world’s agricultural land. Yikes! But it doesn’t stop there: all of that water used to make that uneaten food totals to incredible numbers. The process of making that food, processing and distributing it are already damaging our environment, but our carelessness damages it even more by throwing it right back. We can change that. Instead of piling your plate with a ton of food, take it easy: serve yourself smaller portions that can ultimately help the planet and complement your waistline. Also, when you go grocery shopping, make sure to put in your cart items you’re sure you’ll eat and won’t let go to waste in your fridge or pantry. Be wise and the results will be great.
(Dibenedetto, Bill. “Food Waste Has a Big Impact on Climate, Water, Land, and Biodiversity.” Triplepundit. Triplepundit, 27 September 2013. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.
- Leaving lights and electronics (TVs, computers, chargers, etc.) on in your room all the time vs. turning things off [disconnecting things] when you leave or aren’t using them
- This issue begins with power companies and their ways of acquiring their electricity. Some companies use coal, others use solar energy, others natural gases, hydroelectric power plants, nuclear energy, and oil. Coal is the most damaging and most popular of the rest. Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is a consequence of using coal (these are the toxins coal releases when made). Pollution begins when these gases are discharged into the air and earth’s atmosphere traps them. This also creates something called “smog”. This smog leads to acid rain; some smog contain sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide which when released can contaminate precipitation and “rain” back down as acid rain. No matter how safe and efficient they are, almost all forms of electricity generation produces waste. For example, nuclear energy produced something called “solid waste” which exceptionally harmful, too. Radioactive waste is the most common and the most dangerous considering it affects humans and animals head on (it causes cancer and genetic mutations). Speaking of animals, the use of these energy sources and their freeing of toxins into the earth’s atmosphere don’t just affect humans but wildlife as well. Birds flying into power lines, is one example. Wind farms are dangerous for flying animals, like birds and bats. The goal isn’t to find an energy source that has zero “side effects” [because that’s impossible] but to find one whose effects aren’t as deadly or toxic as the rest. Now, I know what you’re thinking: But what can we do? That’s easy; If we shut off lights in a room when no one is in it or when that particular light isn’t needed at the moment, that would be helpful. If we disconnect chargers from power sockets when our phones or laptops or any other electronic device is fully charged or when it’s not being used is also helpful. Putting air conditioners and space heaters on power save/energy saver mode or on a timer would help too. Turning off air conditioners or heaters when not in use, taking the train or bus instead of a car would help the environment out a bit as well. Little things like these are how we can do our part to put an end to climate change.
(Thompson, Van. “How Does Electricity Affect the Environment?” Seattlepi. Demand Media, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015. http://education.seattlepi.com/electricity-affect-environment-6590.html)
- Eating lots of meat vs. alternating to a diet where there’s a reduction of meat (“Meat Free Mondays,” for example)
- Maintaining and using animals for food is not only cost consuming but requires tons of water, land, energy, and food. These animals being used for human nutrition need their nutrition too. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water are used regularly to maintain the animal’s’ strength and health. In order to keep these animals in one place during the time being, large portions of land are used. This wouldn’t be so bad if the portions they were using weren’t already home to other forms of wildlife. Oceans are even affected by the practice of obtaining meat. Certain fishing methods are considered harmful to the oceanic wildlife. This may sound like more of a problem for the animals than for the humans, but that’s where you’re mistaken. In terms of pollution, according to a study done by the Worldwatch Institute, approximately fifty-one (51) percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. Factories where these animals are killed, processed, and distributed are one of the causes of this. There are ways we, as humans, can help. This, though, comes with making changes to our diet. Don’t worry meat lovers worldwide, this does not mean you need to stop eating meat for good. ‘Cause let’s face it: not everyone can live that vegetarian/vegan life. And you don’t necessarily have to. Cutting down on meat can be beneficial to our environment. For example, eating meat on some days or every other week can help maintain a balance in our ecosystem and in your body, as well. All you bacon lovers out there I understand your hesitation (believe me I do) but imagine not being able to eat your favorite meat because of a shortage of it? You’d go crazy! So let’s not go crazy and let’s make sacrifices.
(“Meat and the Environment.” PETA. PETA, n.d. Web. 19 Oct. 2015.
Doing small things like these on a daily basis can ultimately lead to improvements. Sure some of these changes will take time and ask for a lot from us, but wouldn’t it suck to live in a world where your favorite things aren’t available thanks to your previous carelessness? Didn’t think so.
Oct. 15 — If I Were With Enrique
It’s hard to imagine how anyone, let alone myself, would act in a situation like the one Enrique faced. All of the risks, all of the warnings; all of the reasons to quit.
His entire trip was not only filled with constant fear, hunger, and thirst, it was filled with an immense feeling of uncertainty. That’s what I know I’d feel if I were with him. I’d question my motives for making this journey, I’d question whether my reason for migrating was worth all the troubles I were to endure. But most of all, I’d question whether I was making the right decision; was what I intended to do the right thing to do — not just for myself but for the people I was leaving behind. What if by migrating I was losing people that I cared for in the process? I know that was something that was discussed during and after Enrique’s journey to the U.S. That’s what I’d feel if I were with him. I’d feel this enormous amount of doubt and worry.
I’ll admit that I’d probably feel discouraged most of the time. To have all these roadblocks and struggles interfering with my journey, I’d feel like fate was telling me to not go on, to not continue with my mission. I’d feel like maybe returning back home would be the best, and that’s for sure what Enrique felt at some point. But like Enrique, I would return back to my goal — to my reasons for making this strenuous adventure: not being another life taken by violence or drug addiction.
Even with all these feelings and emotions, I wouldn’t quit. If Enrique, a scrawny, innocent boy with less than $50 to his name could make that journey and go through all that he did and achieve his goal, then so could I. I’d keep that flame of hope alive. Reading his story, that’s what we were all wanting: for Enrique to finally make it to the United States, to finally get to see his mother again. Aside from all the bad, there was good that came out of all of this. Meeting all those generous townspeople who took time out of their day to help migrants (like Enrique) brought about a sense of hope. This hope being that even though there are people in the world with cruel intentions, that there also are compassionate people; people who are empathetic, who make it their mission to help instead of turning the other cheek and letting the wrongdoing of one individual build their perception of a group of individuals. If I were with Enrique, I’d use those kind people as additional reasons for my continuation on my journey. These are people that don’t judge, they’re people that just want to help and make sure they do good by the Big Man upstairs.
To conclude, If I were with Enrique on his journey to reunite with his mother in the United States, I wouldn’t discourage him like many others did, I wouldn’t tell him to play it safe and turn back or to give up. I’d tell him to keep going. To keep fighting, to keep his dream of seeing his mother again ingrained in his brain and to use that as his guiding light out of his misery-filled moments. I know many would disagree considering the turnout of his arrival in the United States and his relationship with his mother. But all of that is a much better turnout than the future that awaited him had he returned back to Honduras. The drug use, the violence, the death — that’s what he would’ve been facing had he given up the hopes of reuniting with his mother and longing for a better life outside of the one in his home country. As an immigrant myself, I know that the choices many people like Enrique face are hard, their journeys are hard, but the thought of staying in the same God forsaken place waking up everyday anticipating your death, is even harder. If I were with Enrique, I’d hope to be as brave and driven as him.
Oct. 08 — Significant Passages in “Enrique’s Journey”
“Still, my parents arrived in the United States on a jet airplane, not on top of a freight train. My family was never separated during the process of immigrating to the United States. Until my journey with migrant children, I had no true understanding of what people are willing to do to get here.” (pg. 33, second paragraph)
– This passage impacted me the most from the prologue because I can personally relate to it. I know what it’s like to be an immigrant; to come to a different country, to deal with immigration services, to live in fear of not knowing if men in black suits or guns were going to come get us. But not to the extent of what Enrique went through. Like Sonia, my parents and I came in a commercial airplane not on a freight train, we came in with passports and visas not with a piece of paper with a telephone number. This passage alone allows non-immigrant individuals to see the struggles and sacrifices of immigrants looking for a better life somewhere other than their home country. It also allows immigrant citizens who made it into the United States in a different way (like myself) to see the small privilege we have compared to others. It’s something to be thankful for. But it is also something to take into consideration and do our part to help.
“He doesn’t love me…No one loves me…” (throughout entire chapter)
– Enrique’s constant belief that no one loves him is an evident sign of the psychological trauma children in this situation experience. Their mothers leave to another country with the hope of a better life for herself and her children while these children are back in their homeland surrounded by violence believing that the reason the important people in their lives are leaving or disappearing is because they themselves are unlovable. It’s a sad reality. This feeling of abandonment that Enrique feels as a young boy after his mother leaves, quickly fuels the anger inside of him that ultimately causes him to act out during his adolescent years and be the opposite of the innocent boy who was always attached to his mother.
“[Enrique] tells himself over and over that he’ll just have to try again.” (pg. 130, last sentence of chapter)
– This sentence highlights Enrique’s determination to continue going even after all his failed attempts and near death experiences. It also highlights the mentality of so many people in Enrique’s position who are escaping their country’s corruptness for a better life somewhere else. This determination, although dangerous, is rooted from these people’s hunger for a better life away from violence and fear. It is astonishing to read of all the dangers these migrants face attempting to flee and their good faith and optimism for the future.
These three passages are just some insight on the realities that this book is going to expose. The story may focus on one main individual, but his struggles are all too similar to those of others going through the same thing. As an immigrant myself, I know what some of these troubles and sacrifices feel like, but I have never and will never experience them with the intensity in which these people have and will continue to.
Oct. 01 — Story of a Vulnerable Community Affected by Climate Change
More than 2,300 people have died in India due the devastating heat waves that hit its major cities in May 2015 and claimed the lives of over 1,000 others in Pakistan in June 2015. In a matter of days, the heat wave that hit India placed number five (5) on the list of deadliest heat waves on Earth. These heat waves took their toll on not only the people in these countries, but on the roadways in New Delhi, India, where it was reported that they began to melt!
Those affected by these heat waves were primarily vulnerable individuals; older citizens, the sick, and those characterized as poor or working class were affected the most due to their inability to afford decent air conditioning in their homes, appropriate or immediate medical care, or a place that they could stay in to cool off. Although people were advised to stay out of the sun and heat, many wouldn’t listen and trekked off to work. Because what could they do? When you live in such financially poor conditions, working is the main priority — rain or [extreme] shine.
This severe rise in temperature is connected to the pumping of carbon dioxide into the air — by humans — which attributes to climate change. For example, the use of air conditioning systems that spewed out hot air into the streets of Indian cities (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) added to the already unbearable conditions. Also, the high use of automobiles in countries like Pakistan and India, that also spew out harmful toxins into the air, added to the extreme heat as well. Due to the high temperature and extreme use of air conditioners at the same time, an abundance of people were left without power in many of these cities. Without any electricity to power their air conditioners, countless people who were privileged enough to afford one were also affected by the heat. This should frighten many people who believe that climate change will not affect them in any way due to their privilege.
Thankfully, many others found refuge in cool places and with people that were willing to lend them a hand. Others tried to stay cool in whatever possible way they could; by jumping in streams or rivers, or going to local shelters that were offering free aid. Unfortunately for thousands of others, this was not enough or simply too late. Scientists and meteorologists are predicting many more extreme temperature changes, such as those seen in India and Pakistan, in years to come. This could mean an intense rise in the death toll of vulnerable communities. If this isn’t a clear sign of climate change, then I don’t know what is.
Sept. 23 — My Thoughts on How Climate Change Affects the Poor the Most
Imagine a world where you are required to put on a face mask before leaving the house or you will suffocate in a matter of minutes. Imagine a world where rainforests do not exist; where certain islands and countries are completely submerged in water. Imagine a world where your children and their children grow up learning about livestock and farming the way we learned about the dinosaurs; as something out of a scientific fiction book. Can you imagine living in such a world? Those are just some of the realities we will be facing in a few decades if we continue to perceive climate change as an issue that should not concern us or that isn’t caused by us. Climate change is real. Climate change is happening. Climate change will kill us and any hope we have of progressing. There will be no crops, no [clean] water, little to no wildlife, and so on. There will barely be anything of what we know of today. And that is a sad thought. Climate change will affect us all — no matter our social class or wealth — but those in poorer living conditions will be affected by this drastic change in our atmosphere the most. This threatening phenomenon will have negative effects in all aspects of human life: from nutrition; shortages of food due to crop declines, to health; disease outbreaks and disturbance of mental state, to the loss of homes due to natural disasters, and to the rise in violence among humans.
As climate change progresses, our planet will experience disastrous storms and fires. We have seen the destruction that hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, and wildfires cause in countries outside of our own and in places within our North American region. Now picture this: think of one of those phenomenons and multiply it by ten. That is how powerful these storms and natural disasters will become with the continuation of carbon emissions. Devastating floods and wildfires will wipe out any and every form of resource certain regions have. This means crops and wildlife wiped out and no way for farmers to replant these crops due to the ruination of the soil. This all leads to the shortage of food and resources necessary for humans (and the remaining — if any — animals) to survive. Droughts are a danger as well. Although they are not as destructive as floods, extreme droughts can lead to water shortages and a rise in food prices. This is another result of the disturbance of the soil used for farming, a crucial contributor to a country’s economy. Speaking of dry and humid conditions, heat waves are another factor associated with climate change. During the hot and humid summer days, we stay indoors under comfortable air conditioned homes. People that live in regions or in homes where air conditioning isn’t a norm, this type of climate can have deadly consequences. Take the heatwave that struck India in May 2015 that left thousands of inhabitants dead in its wake. Heatwaves like that will become exceptionally frequent and cost many more lives around the world.
In terms of health, as the temperature rises, the appearance of bacteria and disease carrying mosquitoes will increase. These mosquitoes spread diseases like malaria, chikungunya fever, and dengue fever that can kill an infected human in a region with no decent medical care in days. Flooding is another contributor of diseases and bacteria. Heavy rainfall can result in the transmission of waterborne diseases like cholera in areas where there aren’t appropriate means for disposing of human waste (the conditions in which the people of Brazil lived). Mental health is another factor of climate change. The continuous stress added onto an already overwhelmed individual living in unfortunate situations can take a toll on anyone. Anxiety, depression, and PTSD, are just some of the disorders a person can experience under distressing circumstances.
Violence and conflict among humans is nothing short of surprising. Think of how tense things get between countries at war with each other. Think about the refugee dilemma in Syria; how violent and chaotic everything is. These forms of violence and conflict are possibilities if climate change gets to the point of no return.
Now, it is not just people in third world countries that’ll be the only ones to suffer greatly. Individuals living in our country who live in extreme poverty (about 6.3% of the population) will also be affected by climate change. These people likely live in areas or neighborhoods close to plants that spew out toxic pollutants on a daily basis. These are uneducated people who may not be aware that the reason they are falling sick so often is not because it is a natural thing, but rather because they are being exposed to toxins everyday; toxins that are slowly killing them. These people then cannot seek medical help because either they have no insurance or have insurance that will not cover much.
To sum up, the consequences of climate change will ultimately affect us all no matter our place in the totem pole of class. The only difference is that those who can’t afford to receive sufficient care or the latest advancements are at a greater risk of suffering from these consequences the most. That’s not to say that wealthy individuals will continue to live on earth and never be affected, but their wealth and privilege gives them an advantage. That advantage being that if all hell breaks loose, they’ll be more equipped to not only handle it, but will be able to live under such circumstances longer than those who aren’t on the same financial/class level. Is that really what we want? No. So let’s educate ourselves and take action to reverse or prevent this damaging issue before it becomes too late.
Sept. 17 — Slaves Help Make My Stuff. What Should I Do?
Slavery is still very much alive and we are all involved in the continuation of it; with our ignorance and our need for the “latest” or the “new”. These people being tricked and lured into this disgusting cycle are innocent individuals who simply want a decent life. These are people who work strenuous days and nights for pennies at a time. Unfortunately, they are not just grown men and women, they are young people like me — like us — with lives ahead of them that they sadly don’t get to enjoy or put to good use because they’re too busy endangering their lives and ruining their health in order for us to have the latest technologies or merchandise. This topic is so sensitive in the sense that there is not just one easy way to end it. We could promise not to buy anything from companies or brands that we know use slaves to make said merchandise, but how are we so sure that our decision to boycott shopping will not harm those slaves in some way or another? Or even our economy? But that is not the point. The aim for this is not to put an end to shopping or spending, it is to aim for everyone around the world to know what’s going on — to get the message — and help put pressure on companies and governments worldwide to officially end such a horrific practice that was believed to have been abolished decades ago.
But what can we actually do? In chapter seven (7) of Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy, author Kevin Bales highlights his three recommendations for putting an end to slavery. He begins by describing the work of anti-slavery groups who aim to investigate and dig deeper into reported cases of abuse within workplaces in foreign countries. After their investigation, they do their best to report their results to the public in order to spread awareness. Their influence becomes so strong that individuals from other nations are then drawn to their reports and become aware of the situation. This step illustrates the need to educate. Not just other people but ourselves. In order to spread awareness we must become aware ourselves. For instance, I had no idea of the origins of some commonly known materials and how exactly they are obtained. It was disturbing, that’s for sure! So let’s look into the materials that go into some of the things we use everyday or are surrounded by. For example, cars. In class when we briefly discussed the ways in which these materials are obtained I was shocked — shocked by the way these people risk their lives to get a hold of a material we pay no attention to. Let’s do our own research, let’s look into the brands we love so much and the materials and household items we seem to ignore. Education and knowledge are key.
In addition, Bales praises CPT (Pastoral Land Commission) groups, who specialize in exposing slaveholders, for bringing to light their crimes and placing shame on them. Without these groups, many of these abuses would have never been known and thousands of people would not have been freed. Even though we may not become a part of such groups, we can support them and share their findings with others through social media.
Bales’s final recommendation is to look into slave trade and how slaves jump from slaveholder to slaveholder. He recommends adding more security officials at airports and borders who specialize in identifying slavery. Bales insists on investigators — within the countries where slavery is most common (Brazil and Thailand, for example) — to dig deeper and keep track of these slave chains. He wants people to take into consideration the treaties signed by multiple countries in which they promise to take necessary actions in order to cease the transportation of slaves within their regions. He wants these countries to keep their promise and do something.
In conclusion, it is crucial that officials and citizens, alike, have some compassion and come together to put an end to slavery. To put an end to this barbaric procedure that should have been buried ages ago. It is our time to be the decent human beings I know we could be.
Sept. 10 — The Steps to Clean Clothes
Whether we like it or not, either most or all of the clothes we own were made in sweatshops. It’s a hard and disgusting truth that many of us need to come to terms with and companies need to change. Fortunately, many big name companies are getting the message and deciding to make changes to the way their merchandise is being produced.
The need for wanting to produce something at little to no cost is one factor that makes it hard for clothes to be produced in a socially just way. Producers avoiding paying more for making something than actually earning is something to take into consideration for this. It’s understandable their decision to not want to spend more on making a couple T-shirts, for example, than actually earning back in sales through Kmart. But it still doesn’t make it right. The consumer’s’ (us, the people who purchase the clothing) need for affordability is another factor, as well. We’d rather go to the store and spend $5.95 or less on a pack of simple T-shirts than to spending a little more on a shirt that promises that it was made in a sweatshop-free environment. Sure, cheap is good — cheap keeps us out of debt and headache-free — but it’s just disappointing that in order for our way of living to remain balanced and stress-free, producers need to resort to taking advantage of people in already awful conditions to achieve this. This ties in with the final factor: cost. A producer or a big name company knows how to appeal to an audience. Advertisement is, of course, the obvious way how, but cost is the real way. Companies know that middle-class and blue-collar families, who they may appeal to the most, are looking for affordability. So when something is expensive, they run a risk of their sales dropping. Just look at the food in grocery stores: it costs less to stock up on junk food than it is to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. It would be easier to just boycott all the companies doing this, but we’d end up with no clothes and the people of Bangladesh would have nowhere to work. It sucks, but it’s true.
Thankfully, some producers are now beginning to get the message that people dying and suffering in the process of making their merchandise is wrong. Some companies and institutions have also gotten the message and have decided to opt out of associating their name with the practice of forced labor. Howard Schneider pointed out in his article that the last thing a college or university needs is to get word that their logo was found in the aftermath of another disaster similar to that of the Rana Plaza collapse.This may be a reason why American companies like H&M and Abercrombie & Fitch have decided to follow in the footsteps of some European companies and sign a contract that states that they will take responsibility for any safety problem that arises at any of their factories around the world. Also, they promise that they will fund any improvements necessary to ensure that their products will be made under safe and fair conditions. Unfortunately, many other American companies — like Walmart and Target — have decided to not sign the contract, in my opinion, due to fear of their dirty money being jeopardized.
It will take time and a lot of convincing for more companies around the world to sign the contract and get on the right track. But in the meantime, to change things for the better, we need to educate and become educated. We need to educate those who aren’t aware of where and under what conditions most of their clothes are being made. Educating people on fair-trade companies is one place to start. We need to investigate these big name companies who allow their products to be produced in sweatshops and help put a stop to it. We need these companies who stand by their integrity and pride and put those to good use to set an example and end this horrible cycle.
Sept. 08 — T-shirts
You’re strolling from aisle to aisle, frustrated that you haven’t picked out a shirt. You’re looking and looking and then — BAM! — you spot a T-shirt. You scurry to it as if someone from across the store spotted the same shirt too and is running towards it. You pick it up and unfold it; revealing its soft texture, intricate design. You check the tag and hallelujah it’s in your size! You take it to the cash register, pay for it and take it home. Only to wear it maybe twice or three times then just leave it to sit in your drawer for years. You do this all the time: buy a piece of clothing, wear it a couple times, then just add it to your list of clothes you haven’t worn in a while. It’s a never ending first-world problems cycle. But have you ever thought about where that simple T-shirt came from or how it was made or even who made it? I’ll admit that those weren’t questions I asked every time I purchased a T-shirt, but they were questions I should’ve asked. After watching Planet Money’s special on what’s behind the making of their T-shirts, it was eye opening to see, not only the process of making a T-shirt, but the people behind them. Most of these people living in impoverished countries or conditions making extremely less for their hard and dangerous work than those who don’t even lift a finger.
It may seem that from all the purchases on T-shirts that everyone involved benefits from it all at the end. Unfortunately, the people who actually benefit from the process of manufacturing and selling simple T-shirts are not the people who actually make them. We, the consumers, benefit from them because they cover us, they keep us cool or warm, they keep us fashionable. The people who run the companies which the shirts are from, benefit because they’re the ones with a nice set of numbers in their bank account; they’re the ones who aren’t worried about losing their low paying job or showing up to that job with a growling stomach. Our economy benefits in some way from this because it maintains the flow of money and without money, there’s nothing.
The effects of T-shirt production on the people who actually make them isn’t all that great. The only benefit I saw from their hard work was the fact that they had a job that paid for some of their essentials. It may sound like that’s enough but for people like Jasmine, who have families to maintain, it’s not. Our T-shirts provide poverty-stricken people with the opportunity to earn some kind of compensation for their work but it’s a slap to the face for them when we see what they actually earn in a month, alone. We’re taking advantage of them; we tell them they’re working for a multi-million dollar company but only give them cents as their pay. It shows just how immense greed is. If companies let go of their need for more money, maybe they’d take into consideration the work people like Jasmine, Shumi, and Minu do. They’d see them as human beings and partners rather than stairs they step on to reach the top. Company CEOs should visit the places where their products are made and take steps into bettering the conditions for their people. That’s right: their people. Those people who work to make that merchandise provide them with their paycheck so it’s only fair that they help them out in return.
It was surprising to see how inexpensive it is to ship the T-shirts. Seven cents ($0.07) just for shipping seems a little too good to be true and it’s because it is. Maybe with the inclusion of machinery the cost is lower, but there seems to be so much more that goes into shipping things that it’s impossible for me to believe that that’s the only amount there is to pay. I have to ask: why does it truly cost so little? Or better yet: what do those $0.07 actually pay for? Where do the cargo ship captains get their part? To me, the true cost of shipping goes hand-in-hand with the complex process of making the products. There is so much that isn’t seen that causes so many questions to surface.
It’s upsetting to think that even after tragedies like the Rana Plaza collapse that killed hundreds in 2013, the conditions for these people continue to stay the same. Sure it’s a sign of improvement that the minimum wages for some of the countries are rising, but it still won’t be enough. With the rising of the minimum wage will come the rise in less fortunate people losing their jobs because no company wants to spend more in making their merchandise than actually making from it.
This new information on the workings behind materials common to people like me, stirs up a lot of questions and concerns. For instance, would a man earn more if they were in the same position as the women behind the machines? Also, if a T-shirt costs, let’s say $13.00, and a worker at the factory in which that T-shirt was made, made approximately $0.10 (or less), where is the other money going towards? Why aren’t the companies in the U.S. — that are depending on these people in those poor countries to make their merchandise — compensating them appropriately? They should be aware of the conditions under which their merchandise is being manufactured. And if they are aware, it brings into question the extent of their humanity.
Stories like those of Shumi and Minu are so common in countries like Bangladesh. They’re sad and disturbing and it’s a reality for women, especially, who are either sold by their families or forced to work like animals to support themselves. If we all took some time to scour through our closets and reflect on how our favorite T-shirt came to call our closet “home,” we’d look at all the things we own in a different light. We’d see the sweat and desperation that went into making something as simple as a cotton T-shirt. We’d recognize our privilege as well as how ignorant we are to the world outside of our own.
Sept. 03 — “Stuff” Reflection
After spending close to 2 hours scouring through my drawers, checking the labels of all my clothing for the country of manufacturing, I realized just how connected we are to so many countries. I expected to go home and spend hours and hours only finding “Made in China” tags, but I was surprised to discover that some of my clothing was made in countries I never would have thought of. I had clothing from Cambodia, India, even Indonesia! I was always aware that clothing was made and distributed in many parts of the world, of course, but I never expected to actually have some of these clothes in my possession. It opens your eyes to the magnitude of our overlooked interactions with a multitude of countries and individuals.
Sept. 03 — What I Hope to Learn
I’m looking forward to learn so much from this course. I hope to learn about the social groups that are somehow connected to me that I have no idea about. Or the groups I already know about but need more knowledge on. I would like to know what I can do to become more aware of these social groups and explore how we’re connected. I hope to change perspectives and see the world through the eyes of another individual. An individual whose actions, some way or another, affect my comfortability. I want to understand these groups of people and get to see how I or how this world of mine benefits from them. I want to know more about social injustices and what I can do to combat them and educate others in my day-to-day life. I want to be aware of anything that I may be doing that could somehow be harming another small community somewhere in the world. I would like to improve my ways of analyzing and presenting my results as well as identifying problems and coming up with ideas on how to solve them. In terms of exploring certain foundations, I want to know what exactly to look for or how to look for something. I want to be able to look at the bigger picture but also to dig deeper.
Overall, my main goal for this course is to simply be aware and to be educated. I want to leave with a broad sense of what is happening in the world outside of my own. I want to be reminded that the people I interact with and the places I go to aren’t the only places or people out there; that there are billions of other little worlds in other countries that share something special with us all. I hope to be able to identify and explore these overlooked communities and know how they function. I want to be able to leave the classroom with a more advanced knowledge of global interdependence and what it means for me, for my country, and for the people of the future. Being well informed is something very scarce but very valuable in this day and age and it’s something I want to be.