Saturday, May 10, 2008

A must read

Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel is a must read. Here is the book. Here is the blog.

The author is married to a friend of my partner and that is how I first learned of the book, back when it was still being published only in Canada (There's the disclosure, though I have not met him yet). Here's why I needed to read it.....

I left the recent conference at the National Harbor disgraced with myself and my professional community. Why? The venue for this conference, 3200+ people, ran counter to many of the values that I hold dear. Here's what was compromised (a nice word for how I really feel):
  • Using fewer nonrenewable resources.
  • Investing in local communities.
  • Using public transportation.
  • Shopping locally. Eating local food.
  • Multiculturalism.
  • Discussing environmental degradation as if we might try to do something about it.
  • Preserving and understanding local history and culture (Historic Williamsburg under glass does not count)
  • and so on....
While I was there and since I've come home I've done little but complain about my own sense of hyprocisy of holding this event at a venue clearly designed to exacerbate sprawl, to divert business from inner city communities, and to serve as a spectator venue for one of the eastern sea board's biggest traffic bottlenecks, the Woodrow Wilson bridge. To stand in a four story tall open space and observe the outdoors through a glass wall the size of a football field while lighted fountains waste water and power for the sake of amusement, the air conditioning runs at full tilt, and security guards stand at every elevator entrance was an assault on my senses, which I shared with everyone I spoke to. To then attempt to hold meaningful discussions about global warming or community development was excruciating to me.

So Stuffed And Starved - the simple title that points out the paradox and hypocrisy of our times - caught my attention. We live in a time and in cities where some people starve to death and others die of complications from obesity and diabetes. Where food shortages leave 10% of the world's people hungry and our governments pay farmers not to farm. We need to understand the connections and systemic alignments/misalignments between what we do and how it shapes the world for others, and we need to change. Each of us and all of us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Lucy, for highlighting the very problematic nature of the Council's site choice. It is appalling that in 2008 a hotel like the Gaylord should be so environmentally irresponsible. They do not recycle anything. There is no option in rooms to save water and energy by not having sheets and towels laundered every day. The $15 "resort fee" included two bottles of water per day per room - in a county where the tap water is quite drinkable.

for the Council to patronize a resource-hogging, local economy-slaying site, on the one hand, and then offer registrants a plastic water bottle with an explicit conservation message, on the other, gave me a bad case of ethical whiplash.

Attendees should note that the Council's giveaway is made from #7 polycarbonite plastic, which contains bisphenol-A (BPA) - a chemical implicated in certain cancers and linked to hormone disruption.

I've wondered about the Council's relationship with reality for several years. The "summit" did nothing to reassure me.