Land Ethic

On our graduation day, We all, Green Mountain College graduates, make a pledge together.

“We pledge “to be cautious of and active in preserving the integrity and beauty of the biotic community. I will strive to embody Leopold’s Land Ethic by viewing land as a community and consider environmental, social, and economic aspects of sustainability in my decisions and actions throughout life.”

It has been one year now.But, everyday, I still have to remind myself – to be more responsive and to keep it up.

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Posted in anti-consumerism, Burma/Myanmar, Global Issues, Green Issues, Green Mountain College, Local Issues | Leave a comment

Being Green

Awake and Aging shares the post, “Being Green“, on its Facebook page. It is about how an elderly lady explained how the old simple practices have been healthy for environment to a young girl who suggested her to use own grocery bags, instead of plastic bags, and blamed the elder generation for not caring enough to save environment for future generations.

Picture Source: Homesteading / Survivalism
Start a 1-Acre, Self-Sufficient Homestead:
Your homestead can be divided into land for raising livestock and a garden for raising fruits, vegetables, plus some grain and forage crops.

I am not as old as the grandma in that post – but, as a farm girl grown up in a village in central Burma, I experienced the glories of those simple old days when we did no need to think about “green thing” because of our simple and traditional practices. I remember those days –

  • We had to return empty soda bottles to the grocery shop and we had them only for the guests or for special events. And, we had to carry our own basket to the morning market for grocery and meat. And, for milk, I remember our daily trip to a dairy farm house and often had to wait the dairy farmer milking cows with our bronze bowl we used as a container.
  • There was no escalator nor lift whatsoever in the whole village.
  • All the elder kids had to help mom washing the younger siblings’ diaper clothes by hand.
  • Not every household had a TV. Back then, TV was like a community thing. The whole community gathered at the home where it has a TV whenever there were special events broadcasting on TV. I still remember that I watched with other kids about senior George W. Bush’s Gulf War at a neighbor house where they just got a TV from a lucky draw win and they put the TV box in the middle of their compound and showed it to the whole village even though we knew nothing about the war and the nature of the invasion -as a kid what we learned was that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy like General Ne Win of our country.
  • We stored drinking water in a clay pot; we kept the pot in the shade and changed it once a year to maximize its coolness.
  • We stored rain water in large pots and we don’t let them go down to drains and had a vegetable garden where used water flows.
  • Bicycle was only other fancy option to commute to our school if we didn’t want to walk.
  • And, we took village bus – for the trips to Monywa, the nearby town. It was just 1 kyat (1 cent) for an adult – free for kids. To carry around heavy things in the village, we still use bullock carts.
  • And, yes, clothes, most of the clothes we wore, are all hand-me-down ones from the elder siblings.

It is not deniable that technology and new inventions made people life a lot easier and healthier. Those inventions should be a way to enhance our good health and welfare and not to pollute our air, water, rivers, or destroy forests.

Before we totally swift to the whole modern lifestyle and build our life on a materialist culture by buying and spending on all latest products, we just have to keep in mind which of our old practices we could still use and how we could make them fit in your modern lifestyle instead of throwing them way altogether – like instead of thinking about having a race or sports car, commute with a bicycle, use a bus, or buy a more energy-efficient car, or instead of using the lift or escalator, choose stairs unless you are not fit – or if your iPhone 4s is still working and functioning well why you bother to get iPhone 5 – just because it is the latest model.

Not using plastic bags is good but that alone is not good enough!

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Consumerism and Kids

These days, whenever I ask my husband to pick movies for our weekend movie nights, he would go for anything with kids in them, and he would keep talking about those movies for days. We both love kids. So much. As a recently wed couple, we will have to wait for some time to get ourselves ready for our own kids. Nevertheless, it could not stop us reading and talking about kids, walking around the neighboring park in our evenings to see kids playing, or even constantly stalking the pictures of friends’ children posted on Facebook.

This weekend, as a change, my husband suggested to watch a documentary – with a baby theme. “Consuming kids”documentary was our pick. It was about how companies, through various marketing strategies, have transformed children into one of the most powerful and profitable consumer demographics in the world. It has long been a disturbing subject to me seeing the market for kid products has expanded even to many developing countries. Although I enjoy checking out children pictures my friends posted on Facebook, I could not be so sure some pictures they proudly show their kids, some are as young as toddler, with hi-tech electronic devices are good for their welfare. There are many pictures that, before dropping “congratulations” lines in the comment box for a newly born baby, we often find having a hard time finding the baby in the picture because a lot of stuff surrounded are dominantly shown in the picture.

Researches have clearly shown that the more a kid spends time watching TV or playing computer games, the more vulnerable they are to be influenced by consumerism. Having exposed to those electronic devices at their tender age, a kid has more likely to be exposed to various commercials earlier and tends to embrace material culture more easily. One time I had an evening out with one of my friends’ family in Cambodia. My friend’s youngest son who was about three years old pointed at a telecom company’s billboard on a roadside by saying “I want “OK””. That made us surprised since he could not read and he could not understand what the company and product was about. What he recognized was the guy on the billboard making an “OK” sign. My friend explained me that the kids had watched the TV commercial of that telephone company and they had known the company and its products as “OK”. They liked the ads and they wanted its products even though they were too young to need them.

When I was in the United States, I visited families with kids. The girls would show us their dolls and all sorts of toys. They would say – this is my dolls named this and that. And, when asked how about that tiny ones, those are my dolls’ dolls and this is my purse, that one is my doll’s and her heels and so on. Those kids have the pint-size versions of everything an adult has and their dolls have every miniature version of every stuff they have. Families’ purchasing volume increases double, triple and multiple times. Children are prematurely exposed to the kinds of products which they do not need yet and a lifestyle required excessive buying and spending all the time. Continue reading

Posted in Blog posts, Burma/Myanmar | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Myanmar Gay Marriage

Myanmar Gay Wedding Picture by Phone Myat Htoo Source: http://on.fb.me/OrRfMo

A Burmese photographer, Phone Myat Htoo, posted this picture on his facebook last month with a caption “Supporting Same Sex Marriage – Real couple with Myanmar traditional wedding setting.”

So far, the picture has been “liked” by about 900 people and shared by almost 1300 people. The picture has collected about 700 comments so far – most of them are very abrupt. I guess that the photographer has already expected the negative attention his picture will get and he put a statement in the caption “any homophobic comments will be deleted and user will be banned for viewing my page.” However, it is kind of shockingly surprised to me that most of the comments show nothing other than hatred in a very surly language.

One of the grooms in the picture explained that it was a pre-wedding photo and they planed to hold a wedding ceremony in Yangon in later this year.

A friend of mine pointed out that Myanmar is one of the countries that the Article 377 of the Penal Code banning gay marriage was still put in place and she questioned about the credibility of their union in Yangon. Indeed, it is one of the conservative and unjust laws Myanmar has yet to make changes. However, what I am more concerned is that the very high level of public hatred and homophobia rooted in the Burmese society. If we have public acceptance, the steps to change the law could be followed up soon. Awareness campaigns in Myanmar should be stepping up. Otherwise, the lives of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders in Myanmar have been traumatized and they have been bullied by strangers all the time.

Even though I do not know the two grooms in the picture, I would like to congratulate and send my well wishes to those beautiful duo for coming up strong and sending the message clearly and openly by posing for the pre-wedding picture in a very graceful Burmese traditional groom wedding attires. They don’t just stand up for themselves, and their union is such an encouragement for  other gay and lesbian couples across the country to come out strong and hold their head high by following to their hearts.

What I believe is that regardless of any religion you belong and any region you are raised, each and every one of human beings on the earth should have equal rights to marry the one they love without being judged and discriminated by others. Marriage is the union of love; any marriage either between same sex or opposite sex based on one’s profound love for another is such a beautiful and auspicious thing. If you could accept marriage for status or wealth as a proper one, why can’t you accept the same-sex marriage for love which is even more pure and real in heart? Is that simple, isn’t it?

Posted in Burma/Myanmar, Local Issues | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

“Disparition”

“Disparition” by Yemeni photographer Bushra Almutawakel
Source: http://bit.ly/PTgcw0

“A Yemeni photographer illustrates how women could vanish into darkness and invisibility, step by step, under fundamentalist pressure and the full niqab.”

No offence to any culture – I have a great respect to different culture and a very high degree of culture sensibility. Nevertheless, I have to say what I feel, even last weekend, I was looking at a mother with three young kids, who is wearing similar niqab second to the last pic, having french fries and Coke at a shopping mall in Dubai, and I see how difficult she has to struggle to feed herself and to her children – every single bite she has to vow her head a little bit, touch fries with ketchup, lift it up her facial cover a little bit, while holding the end of cloth with one hand without being exposed any part of her face, trying to pull fries into the month with the other hand, then pulling down the cover back. I can’t help not to feel pity for her. It is unnecessary burden she has to take. Even if you think the photographer’s view is exaggeration, one thing what you can not deny is by forcing women to cover their body fully, without letting them decide what they want for their lives and how they want to cover their body, the world for women has not moved forward yet. It is needless to say that it is not “Dispairtion” if you can’t fight even for that.

I wish all women should be given the rights to choose clothing in which they are comfortable, and rights to decide which part of their own body they want to expose or cover, and manage how they want to express themselves. They also should have absolute freedom to decide by themselves what is best for them, not being told and not being forced to follow what others say best for them.

Some people may argue that some women are just comfortable with the way they are in it. You just can’t claim it until and unless they are given a free access to good education, freedom and security to be able to question over their practices.

For men, I’m not just saying for men in Arab culture but also men in every culture, if they want to protect women, all they have to do is respect women. RESPECT WOMEN! That is. That’s all you have to do, and if you can’t, don’t try to change the rules for women. Just practice yourself because that’s your own problem – women have nothing to do with your issues. Respect Women. Period.

Posted in Women Rights | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Movement for Ethical Consumerism

Children Workers at Ve Ve Cold Drink Factory Picture by Mg Ba Oo (https://www.facebook.com/mgbaoo)

Underage workers of a local popular soft-drink factory, Ve Ve, are holding a strike in Myanmar asking to improve their working conditions and working hours to be reduced.  According to the report by the Voice Journal, 200 children, who are under 16 years old and some are as young as 12, were asked to work no less than 12 hrs a day and no off day a week. The existing labor law in Myanmar restricts children under 15 working for more than four hours a day. If employers are fail to follow the rules, they can be fined 500 kyats (50 cents) and a prison term. So, basically, the current law is useless and it does not protect children from being exploited by their employers.

Ethical Consumerism 

Even if a country lacks laws which could effectively stop business firms from exploiting workers and natural resources, consumers’s ethical choices can be as effective and influential as laws over companies in stressing them to respect human rights, to improve labour conditions, and to abandon excessive environmental exploitation. People can express their concern by means of his or her purchasing behavior; and urge companies to generate socially responsible practices.

Myanmar and Ethical Consumer Movement

Although this Ve Ve children workers strike and other recent labor protests going on in Myanmar gain enormous public support, and there are also increasing public concern and outcries over companies’s socially irresponsible business activities carried out inside the country, an ethical consumer movement has yet to be rooted in Myanmar.

By choosing other products produced by social responsible companies over the products of the companies, like Ve Ve soft drinks factory, which are fail to respect human rights and labor rights, individuals can play a great role in encouraging changes in unhealthy business practices.

Challenges of Being An Ethical Consumer

However, being an ethical consumer towards society and environment is not always easy. There are challenges and arguments about which are ethical, and how can we be ethical. One obvious barrier of being responsible in consuming is product prices; for the products ethically and responsibly produced, it often involves paying high prices. For example, Chinese products; Chinese companies are notorious for their exploiting conducts, but they sell goods in a much lower price which allures many consumers to forget their conscience and dive in for cheaper goods. Our purchasing behavior based on product prices rather than our conscious choice will encourage companies to carry out more destruction over our forests, and other natural resources, and more exploitation our labor forces. In terms of social and environmental costs, it will eventually make us pay even more in the long term. We have seen that people’s general health and natural environment even at the societies strictly upheld by the rule of law like the United States have been suffered by greedy corporate firm’s irresponsible practices and individual’s feckless purchasing behavior.

With the labor laws and enforcement alone – without public’s effort to try to buy conscientiously, we could not a build sustainable, healthy, and human-nature balancing society. We have to promote ethical consumerism movement together with other causes calling for improvement in labor, human, and animal rights – to reach a conclusive and lasting solution in the country.

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Take “Just” lessons

People in my country, Myanmar, have locked in a heated debate over the issue of immigration. Bloodshed has not been spared. Instead of looking at righteous laws and policies as models, and pressuring the government to take the high road, many have pointed out unjust laws and conducts other big nations have practiced in handling the issue of illegal immigrants and other racial conflicts to support their cause calling for the government to produce as equally bad, if not worse, unjust and inhuman practices against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar as other countries have done in those similar situations.

While our people are busy in lobbying the govt to beat out all nations for the crown of injustice, one nation, the United States, has tried to improve its unfair policy against illegal migrants. President Obama just announced a new policy which spares illegal immigrants who arrived the US since as a child from deportation and gives them permission to work. It would not be a perfect one yet and many has yet to improve but, as the President Obama said, “more just” for them.

Taking the high road is never easy, but other unjust and unfair practices will bring us to nowhere other than to an absolute failure in the long term. Why don’t we learn lessons from others and take only good models as the guides for us? It is better, isn’t it?

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