A Ten-Step Plan To Care for Our Country and WorldBy Veena Trehan (about the author) Permalink (Page 2 of 4 pages)
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Look forward. There are many reasons for past inaction. One of the main Hindu holy books, the Bhagavad Gita, is devoted solely to encouraging action when values conflict. Today, powerful corporate and political forces sow confusion and ambivalence. They promote behavior at odds with common values: Buy products associated with happy or cool people, corporations advertise; not those that positively impact your health and the world. Their Whack-a-Mole arguments against sustainable practices belie the blindingly obvious truth: Investment in a broad array of programs would serve the public interest, while slowing the growth of the overfull coffers of the privileged.
It's time to focus on numbers three and four (assuming your family has two kids). Adopt, America, a child who, in contrast to her developed-country peers, struggles with the second worst child poverty and life expectancy, the worst (the only one lacking) universal health care and paid maternity leave, soaring inequality, middling test performance, and an epidemic of poor health. She is ravaged by the effects of skyrocketing child marketing.
The world, too, has slipped from her maternal perch. As her bounty wanes she throws heated, stormy tantrums. Last week a report predicted between a 3.6-degrees Celsuis and 5.3-degree rise
in global temperatures, based on a continuation of current carbon policies. Less than a year ago, World Bank
President Jim Yong Kim described the projection of a possible four-degree rise by 2100 as a
"doomsday scenario," coming, as it did, just three years after world leaders agreed to aim
to limit the increase to two degrees. Already, only a one-degree Celsuis rise has brought record wildfires,
droughts and superstorms.
Meanwhile, corporate investors with economic power seek profits with uncontrolled avarice. Wal-Mart's six heirs have almost as much wealth as the gross development product of 150 million Bangladeshis. Yet the corporate behemoth refused to sign on to a landmark fire safety accord estimated to cost them 10 cents per garment. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals--including cutting poverty in half and making primary education universal--was estimated to require additional funding of just one-tenth of the US defense budget.
As a parent, you've honed the discipline of faith and devotion. Now, bring it to your new progeny.
Here's a 10-Point Plan You Can Follow:
1. If you don't believe in a company, don't patronize it. As consumers, we shape the world for better or worse. If all of us stopped eating Monsanto's genetically modified products--particularly corn and soy (and animals who eat them)--it would cripple the company while returning us to the healthier diets of our childhood. Win-win.
Screen companies and brands you buy, making it as complicated as you wish. If you don't have much time, don't buy from those with negative news stories. Consider not purchasing products unless you understand their ingredients and know they're safe. More broadly, evaluate these indicators of how the companies you buy from do business: their tax liability (Does the company pay at the rate you do?); whether their workers receive a living wage and are unionized; their political donations; their use of toxic chemicals and levels of pollution; their marketing to kids; their involvement in Third World "accidents"; etc.
The application Buycott
can help. This tool can be used to identify the parent
company of products, and checks whether your purchase would support
specific campaigns you sign on to, including animal welfare, civil
rights, economic justice, and other issues.
Each month, stop supporting a corporate bad actor, and tell your
friends about what you're doing.
2. If you're not willing to abandon a questionable brand (You may, for example just looove your iPhone--though I can personally attest to greater happiness post-iPhone), then be super-active. Be a role model for all of us. Start or sign a petition to end the brand's corrupt practices. Speak up at the shareholder meeting. Ask a store manager about one issue...then another. Post stories like this on Facebook and Twitter. Most importantly, talk with others about what's at stake and encourage them to act.
Author James Baldwin describes the most important thing we can do for others as opening the door to spiritual and social unease. Evoking such discomfort builds courage and integrity.
3. Stop being defined by your political party. Politicians apply labels (like "Democrat" or Republican") and tell you to sign over your brain, wallet and vote. Nonsense.
The majority of Americans support significant measures to address climate change, gun
safety, genetically modified food, and job creation
neither party is shepherding through significant legislation. Standing
up to your party isn't a betrayal. We need to encourage our leaders to
use the bully
pulpit to promote the public interest, especially since, if we had to do it ourselves, many of us would trip
out of our heels in climbing to the podium. Make it
clear to politicians that your next vote is the price they will have to pay for putting the interests of lobbyists ahead of your own.
4. Push institutions to make better choices. Few--particularly of the richest--Americans are associated with institutions they believe in a hundred-percent of the time. The energy companies, medical institutions, banks, consultancies, etc. who employ us often recommend and implement practices we know hurt the public. In addition, our schools, religious organizations, and retail stores can often do more to make things better. To use a Department of Homeland Security campaign slogan that can be applied (in a more helpful context) to practices that should be eliminated or improved: "If you see something, say something."
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