One thing many friends and family have been addressing, out of concern for our safety, is the cholera epidemic that is ravaging the country. It’s in some ways a very justifiable concern, so I wanted to write a little bit about it to set friends and family at ease.
Some of you may notice there are some [minor] changes to the blog. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I like the new color template because it’s a lot easier to read. And I love the old map background at the top. But I can’t get my picture to be centered, and that’s driving the OCD-part of me a little insane. Any thoughts or suggestions? Should I got back to the old format or try to figure out this new one? Change is usually difficult for me, so it feels weird to switch this up, but I’m thinking it’s time.
So Jeff and I watched an interesting movie tonight that actually made me want to make some changes to how we do things in our home. I will admit that I wasn’t stoked on watching it–not because it looked bad, I just wasn’t in the mood for a documentary, but I’m glad we ended up watching it. The movie is called “No Impact Man,” and is basically the project of one man to have him and his family live for a year without making any net impact: no trash, no energy consumption, etc. Sounds crazy, right? I still don’t know how his wife agreed! (I also wonder how this guy ended up being a “traditional” family man…I think you’ll know what I mean if you watch the movie ;) ). But she did, and they did, and there’s a movie to prove it.
Other than being entertaining to watch, it made me think about what small things we can each do in our lives to make less of a negative impact on our environment. I know I’m not going to give up electricity as a whole, or get rid of my TV, but I’m sure there are things I can do that in the aggregate might make a small difference. The main protagonist in the film says that if you are going to do just one thing, it should be to get involved with a conservation project in your community: he thinks getting back to our sense of community is crucial.
I think most of us know of the obvious things we can do to have less impact:
- don’t use bottled water. Use a container that’s washable and reusable. “30 billion plastic water bottles are thrown away every year. Plastic can take up to a thousand years to disintegrate.”
- lay off the plastic bags: instead of just leaving your Ralph’s bag in the car, remember to take it down and use it instead of using plastic bags (I suffer from this a lot)
- use energy efficient light bulbs and household appliances (it took me over a minute to come up with the word “appliances”)
Here are some things that might not be as obvious:
- did you know you can reduce your junk mail in your physical (not cyber) mailbox by calling places and asking them not to mail you stuff? I definitely need to do that. “Junk mail produces 1 billion pounds of landfill each year.”
- support local farmers. I need to go to the farmers market more often.
- recycle, reuse, reduce. I’m pretty sure this was standard elementary education, but we tend to forget. I don’t see myself making my own compost, but I would like to be more active in recycling stuff–not just plastics, cans and aluminum, but general stuff around the house.
- be more vegan. this one I’m really not sure I can do. I love bacon. I love a good burger every now and then. But then again, “animal agriculture emits more global warming gases into the air than does transportation.” huh.
These are all pretty mild and tame ways of helping out. I recommend watching the movie to see what challenges you think you might be able to handle.
I do want to point out an interesting scene: the protagonist is talking to his wife during a period of frustration with his project wondering, why is he really doing this? Is it really making any difference? Towards the end, he goes on to explain that if we each get one person to change something in their lifestyle, then we are all making a difference. I thought it was especially interesting given my recent soul searching for my career. I’ve yet to delve into this and make any serious analysis or conclusion of it, but thought it was oddly similar to what I’ve been wondering about my desire to pursue public interest.
What do you do to reduce your global impact? What are your ideas?
I met up with a solo-practitioner last week to discuss how she started her own firm (let’s call her Lucy), but was able to keep it public-interest minded. Basically, if I can’t find a job working for a non-profit, I gotta find a way to make this whole attorney-thing work for me; a possibility is to start my own practice, but be able to keep it focused on low-income clients, while still making a living for myself (sounds almost like an extended oxymoron, huh?).
It was an extremely productive lunch meeting (I tried some sort of Thai coconut soup for the first time…something I would have never ordered myself, but actually enjoyed), but it also brought me back to a concept I brought up when I first started this blog: at what point do we stop pursuing our goals to pursue something more realistic?
Lucy worked for a big non profit law firm in Los Angeles about a year after law school, and I could see the shimmer in her eye when she talked about those days: everyone she worked with was empowered to change the world, and believed they could do it. There was a contagious excitement about the work they were doing, about helping people, about making it happen. Lucky worked with this non profit for about twenty years, until congressional regulations started restricting the kind of work they could do: no more personal injuries, no more class actions (these take away large sums of money from attorneys that actually want to get paid), no more funding if you’re helping illegal immigrants, etc. Lucy grew so frustrated because she felt she was no longer doing what she went to law school do to, so she decided to go out on her own.
Years later, sitting in a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant in Brea, she talks about how she just had to make the decision, and now she has to be a business person rather than a public-interest attorney: she’s gotta make money to pay for her elderly mothers 24-hour caregiver. I can tell from the shift in her tone, and the lack of shimmer in here eye, that she’s not overly excited about this: she has to network with attorneys (ick! ;] ), put her name out there to find new clients, and charge clients for her service. I know charging seems normal to most of you, but for a public interest attorney who is used to working in a firm that provides free services, it feels almost immoral to charge people. But it’s what she has to do now. She also wonders: how much impact was I really having, helping one person at a time? I certainly was no closer to saving the world when I first started, then twenty years later. I could tell this was something she had pondered before…her look became a little more distant, and I could see she was thinking of all the cases she had worked on in those twenty years and asking herself: did they really change anything?
I’m only two weeks into my unemployment (today is actually my two week anniversary!), but I’m already thinking about my alternatives if I can’t find a job soon with a non profit or public interest firm. I might have to go out on my own. I’m gonna have to charge my clients. I’m gonna have to find a way to compromise what my heart desires, and what our family needs. How can I do this without loosing my shimmer? It may sound pathetic, but I’m scared of losing my idealistic aspirations, I’m scared of realizing I can’t save the world.
It was great to see the Washington Post write a long and thorough article on something that isn’t in the news much, and that no mainstream media has much of an interest for.
As usual with Guatemala, it’s depressing to see opposition to something that can actually help with the level of crime and impunity that exist within it. The CICIG has been facing opposition from various sectors since the very beginning, and I’m sure it will continue to face opposition for the remainder of its days. It just makes me sad.
It makes me sad because I read posts from my friend Isabel, who lives in Guatemala, and she talks about her frustrations with the crime and violence in Guatemala. People shut themselves in their house by 8pm. Their crime rate, as mentioned in the article, is three times that of Mexico. Three times. The crime rate of Mexico. Let that sink in for a bit.
So here’s an organization that is fighting corruption and crime, and trying to prosecute those before thought to be untouchable because of their political influence and/or wealth. But it has to fight to survive.
I hope the two year extension of the CICIG is granted, and I hope it continues to provide meaningful improvements to the government of Guatemala. I hope the people of Guatemala demand it, should anyone stand in the way.
(Disclaimer: this blog is from my working days, certainly not recent!)
The beginning of the video has me wondering a thing or two, but I do enjoy the song.