Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th of July

For me, America feels like a dog eat dog world. Its all about making the most money, even when it means that people die. Of course people are going to be like that all around the world. And I know that it is mostly unintentional. But seems like in America, in order to beat the game, you have to play the game. While in Rome, do as the Romans do.

However, when you live in your own sustainable environment, its not like that.... you just be. You are in control of yourself. Your food and water and shelter you made with your own hands or you know the people that produce/provide what you use. I now realize what it is that made me fall in love with East Frisia. Sure, it had the 19th century charm. But Ostfriesland was largely independently sustainable. They were entirely dependent on local wind and solar energy... even selling off the excess. I could bike to school or the store. My potatoes came from the neighboring town, my milk from my next door neighbor. My tea cup was made locally and the sad part is that only in the past 30 years has items such as clothing and toasters and tourists have brought new items and practices into Ostfriesland. It was a special treat to go to the gelato/ice cream store because it was Italian. It was a unique experience to eat toast because the bread was not made locally. The teahouses now sell coffee at tea time and mixed tea blends. The people of East Frisia created their own environment hundreds of years ago and they know what must be done to sustain it. That means letting the sheep graze on the coastal dikes instead of cows for example. Its honest work. Straight forward.

Unfortunately, that kind of world is dying. Ostfriesland cannot survive on its own anymore without tourists. Everywhere from Pakistan to Tanzania to Oaxaca, to small town USA, people are learning that they have to plug into the outside world for survival, travel farther distances for necessities such as water, food, and gas. Its a scary interdependent world. Dare I even say the catchphrase: globalization? But what happens when those communities don't or can't do so? There are impractical things that simply become impossible when, for example, families in Mozambique must spend 6-12 hours just to obtain a 5-gallon jug of water or the nearest medical clinic to your small Mexican town is a 36 hour walk down the mountains... and they don't even speak your language at the clinic; or even small towns in northern California have no electricity and power because they are too far out in the country and must survive on diesel generators that run on fuel that costs over $5.00 a gallon and the nearest grocery store is 26 miles away. Small communities die from a lack of necessities. But surely, these things are not new in human history. The difference is that instead of these communities dying in their natural cycle as do all communities in the history of the human race, suddenly globalization is an answer, a solution that never was available before.

Mass production and better communication/infrastructure has and continues to make the lives of billions of people better each day. The biggest problem for me right now is that most people don't even realize, or worse yet don't even care that they are being bought out. Their desires, thoughts, values, etc are all shaped by a few corporations that make millions and billions of dollars each year. They are apathetic. The reason that you dive a car on a freeway instead of taking the train is because Ford bought out and created the seedlings of the massive infrastructure we use today over 100 years ago. Or the reason you eat fruit from South America instead of the berries in your backyard is because it is cheaper, or perhaps safer, or even... more convenient? So the question for me is, how can this wonderful yet difficult answer called globalization avoid becoming rampant consumerism? How can small town independence and/or locally sustainable efforts in food/water/energy production be streamlined with globalization efforts? And even more important, what are the consequences if we don't?

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