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Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

The haze is back in Singapore and no one is happy about it. World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) put up these bus stop ads to remind us why. What a great way to inspire us to check the ingredients in the products and foods we buy and purchase less palm oil.

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Check out my original post about the haze here: https://texasonthames.com/2013/06/18/the-sky-is-burning/

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I come back from a weekend away to find myself choking on smoke and acrid air in Singapore. I start to ask everyone around me what is going on. I’ve been here a full calendar year now exactly, I thought the surprises were over.

Sadly, this is what it took for me to care about the deforestation of Sumatra. OK, the words “to care” are not exactly right. “Be aware” is more appropriate. With so many things going on in the world, how do we just pick one cause? We usually get cause fatigue and sink back into our slumpy little holes of wine and cheese or working out or television or whatever else we can find to hide away in and feel better. I’m not judging. These are my drugs too.

But when it’s in your face, in the air you breathe, I suppose you can’t ignore things anymore.

If this is the future, it’s scary and awful, y’all and I don’t know what to do about it. Think I’m being melodramatic? Check out this photo taken atop the infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands.

Photo from Reuters

Photo from Reuters

Permission has been granted to convert up to 70% of what remains of Indonesia’s rainforest into palm or acacia plantations. This smoke covering Singapore comes from the clearing of those lands by fire. Visit Sumatra and Borneo now because in 20 years the forests there will be gone. Accompanying the eviction of animals and plants from their land is violence. Communities that had lost their traditional forest fought multinational companies and security forces in more than 600 major land conflicts last year. All according to the Guardian.

This isn’t some far away place anymore. This is Singapore’s backyard. This is MY backyard.

What can be done about it? Well I guess we can stop buying palm oil for a start, but it seems like we just consume and replace one thing with something else- another cash crop perhaps? I’m not putting down the palm oil ban idea. It could be a temporary Bandaid. The rainforest might really appreciate a Bandaid.

The mantra “Live simply so that others may simply live” sounds really groovy until you realize it’s being spouted by one of the world’s wealthiest and most privileged. Before you start asking me for a loan thinking I have some CEO type gig or inheritance, consider that 80 percent of the world live on under $10 a day. If you are reading this, I am pretty sure that you too are among the world’s most wealthy.

So tonight I eat vegan – it requires less land mass to raise grain and vegetable than animals. Besides, we are all headed there anyway eventually. I contemplate growing a garden and whether its responsible to have children, how many, and what resources one should give them. I self congratulate myself for driving a scooter instead of a minivan. Then I think about how many shoes I really need to own and my love for travelling on airplanes.  I think about emerging economies and their rights to own shoes and travel on airplanes. Or even sometimes their right to just try and feed their families.

I think – does it really matter what I do? “I’m one person and even if I manage to figure out something, the rest of the world is not going to come with me,” says a small voice. Regular interactions on Facebook have schooled me on this one. “Are you kidding me??” was the response to my suggestion to reduce carbon footprint if you didn’t have cash to give to a charitable organization.

“We think it’s so cute that you care about people,” was a response from a good friend who doesn’t see eye to eye and married a man who doesn’t believe in global warming.

“OK,” I mumble to keep the peace. “I guess the jury’s still out?”

Now I’m cynical and sad. And I crawl into bed doomed by this whole new problem of unsafe air, deforestation and homeless orangutans when the other day my biggest problem was whether or not the cab driver was ripping me off $5 and having an annoying heat rash. (BTW, heat rashes are super annoying.)

I’m grateful for the perspective but not very happy about the rest of it. I snap out of my wallowing.

Who’s got time to be butt hurt over stupid things when THE RAINFOREST IS BURNING. The one next to my house, not the one on the other side of the world anymore.

As for raising awareness, the smoke seems to be doing it, you see. It’s got my attention and my lungs.

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Susie was back in London from France and she suggested I go check out the protests at St Paul’s Cathedral.

“I was impressed,” she said. “They are really organized.”

Susie should know. She’s done her share of NGO work.

I’d been meaning to go down there. It was on my to-do list, just like washing clothes,  scheduling an appointment with a dentist for a checkup, jogging every morning and finally getting my life in general order. But no, I really should do this. I need to educate myself and understand what is going on. The only way to do that is to actually get out of my routine and make it happen.

I arrived and realized Susie was right. They were organized.

I had expected to see the protestors the moment I got off the central line at St Paul’s Cathedral, but instead they were neatly aligned on the side. Once you arrived in the area, posters and banners containing political messages were prevalent, but most protestors themselves were at the general assembly meeting in front of the cathedral. After wandering around and spotting the kitchen where 3 meals are served daily, the library where books are freely loaned, the first aid tent, a music tent and the info centre, I decided to climb onto the steps of the cathedral and listen in.

Working group announcements were taking place. Since St Paul’s had been so kind as to let the protestors stay, it was strongly encouraged and required that all members cooperate with the cathedral’s requests. Certain hours of operation were to be respected. Safety and fire hazards were to be obeyed.

A leader from the media working group stood to announce that filming was going to take place. The good, bad and the ugly were all going to be recorded. If there was any ugly, it was not going to be edited out, no matter what the circumstance. “We need to be honest about everything,” he explained. “That is the only way to be the change we want to see.” Hands in the audience raised and were shook to express noiseless excitement and agreement.

Another working group leader stood up and took a vote regarding meetings with public officials. Several people in the crowd stood up to express their opinions. Anyone who wished to speak was allowed their time to talk with proper attention and respect. The debate continued on. What is our goal? Are we heading toward our goal without compromising? Is this a compromise that we feel OK making?

Oh my. Could this be the type of democracy I learned about in grade school? Where we all listen to each other and go forward with a majority consensus? Where we respect one another and focus on a common shared end goal?

It is true that I only dropped in for a few hours. The real trick at these things seems to be to stick with it without compromising your core values.

I left the general assembly in search of the Tent City University. This was what truly sparked my interest: a series of lectures given for free. I wanted to know more about the issues.

When I arrived, Anthea Lawson from Global Witness was giving a talk on the process that enables criminals and brutal dictators to outflow their money into the global tax haven network of banks.

Next up was academic Mike Neary to discuss different approaches to education. As a group, the room explored concepts and strategies for education and skill sharing.

A woman sat breastfeeding in the corner. Two school aged children entered with their dad and stood in the back. A middle-aged visually impaired woman came and sat on the cushion next to me. The people in the room were from all over and represented various socio-economic backgrounds, ages, colours and life circumstances.

I left for the day more knowledgeable of our social system and with an understanding of what #OccupyLSX was all about.

I thought about how I could stay and learn for quite a long time. I then thought about my life and how I was a bit eager to get back to it. I have a lot of respect for those who have relocated here away from their comfy beds  or those who commute in and give up their days to organize and run such a long-term event.

If you have some spare time, I recommend a visit. Even if you are unsure about the movement or don’t care to volunteer, they are happy to have you stop in and learn.

Knowledge is power and truth is love, y’all.

OccupyLSX has expanded to include Finsbury Square. Check out the organization website to find a schedule of events or how to get more involved.

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