Because Hampshire hosts the ‘From Abortion Rights to Social Justice’ conference I went to a couple of the workshops this weekend. ONe of the ones I went to was called Environmental Activism which ‘addresses the environmental justice issues, including how poor communities of color are disproportionately impacted by pollution and toxic wastes, and how people are organizing to fight back to create cleaner and healthier environments.’
The talk consisted of a panel of three different women talking about their various experiences with environmental justice issues and particular groups they had worked with around this. One Hampshire Alum from Alaska talked about the reproductive implications of the pollutants left on abandoned military bases in Alaska, and how they were causing cancer and miscarriages among the people in those areas. We talked about reproductive rights being about a lot more than just the right to birth control or abortion- it includes the right to fertility, to having a safe and healthy world to bring children into, and the sort of community there is for a child to grow up in.
What ws interesting about the Alaskan example was that the speaker pointed out that a lot of environmental activism that takes place in terms of Alaska has to do with the idea of preserving the wilderness. However such a campaign fails to address the very intense environmental struggles of people (largely indigenous and poor) who live in toxic places. Greenpeace was mentioned as a group that used animals in its campaigns while ignoring the issues of Alaskan people. It did seem that Greenpeace was unintentionally failing to work with the people of Alaska on their environmental problems. The speaker mentioned that some groups do not work together because they see themselves as strictly environmental, versus other groups that deal more with social justice issues (which certainly includes environmental). Speciesism is about drawing connections between movements in some ways- that seem like they would help strengthen protection for the people and land in Alaska, together.
While the topic was not directly addressed it became clear that speciesism was integral to environmental issues in Alaska. THe traditional hunting/fishing practices of indigenous people were skimmed over in the discussion. It was pointed out that when groups like Greenpeace come into a situation and begin talking about ’saving the whales’ or whatever, they are seen as ignoring the social implications of such a campaign. Dialogue between environmental groups and other groups is necessary to make cohesive claims. This is a point that Carol Adams makes- that social justice issues are interconnected and to strengthen one movement often means needed to join with other movements. Greenpeace is likely doing itself a disservice by not listening to the people who hunt those animals. I say this agreeing that hunting whales and seals etc. is not only environmentally detrimental but extremely cruel. I do not ever believe that tradition or culture justify immoral, unjust, or cruel behavior.
An interesting side part of this discussion was also the mentioning that the people who hunt animals in Alaska are consuming the fatty parts of the animals, which are also where a lot of toxic pollutants like to hang out, and thus eating meat and fish causes more disease and death. I can see this being skewed into an argument that pollution is worse for cutlures heavily dependent on fish and meat, but mostly I see it as another connection between all of thses movements. Could the argument be made with a straightface that eating animals should be avoided because it is going to kill you thanks to the pollutants in it? I don’t know that this is a productive path to head down, but I also do not think that the toxic meat issue should be ignored.
SOmething else interesting I noticed during the ‘Women in Prisons’ workshop was that one young woman who had been incarcerated in Ludlow for 2 years described the way the prisoners were treated as being ‘treated like DOGS’. I could not help but thinking how things might be different if it wasn’t even okay to treat dogs in such ways- then maybe prisoners would not be allowed to be treated that way either.
The World Social Forum (WSF) for the first time took place in Africa in Nairobi, Kenya, marking new directions and challenges for the seven year old process. Nairobi’s Moi International Sports Complex, located in the district of Kasarani, emerged as the WSF’s epicenter. Although the football stadium became transformed into a unique world of constructive dialogues, mass action planning, and experience sharing between January 21 and 24, 2007, it also became shaped by rampant confusion, disorganization, noticeable cynicism, and new and old forms of social exclusion which now revamp the WSF’s trajectory.
Nairobi was given close to one year to prepare for WSF 2007 after being chosen as host city by the International Council of the WSF (IC) and the WSF Secretariat. Thus the much anticipated relocation of the Forum to the continent where people are most deeply affected by under-development, poverty, and disease not only became an attempt to build on the 2006 Polycentric WSFs of Bamako, Mali, Caracas, Venezuela, Karachi, Pakistan as well as the 2004 WSF of Mumbai, India, and the four previous Forums of Porto Alegre, Brazil (2001-2003, 2005), but more importantly had basis in the recognition and respect of the capability, dignity, cultures, and struggles of people(s) and movements in Kenya and throughout Africa at large.
The dreams, belief, and collective engagement enshrined in the original slogan of the WSF: ‘Another World is Possible’ and underlying experiences that fed into Nairobi, however, were rekindled through organizational incapacity to meet the demands of logistics. Two central issues produced out of a chaos of disorganization involved registration fees and the lack of information in organizing registration.
Firstly, the standard registration fees for westerners, $110 U.S., were much higher than for either citizens of Eastern Africa or others from developing countries but the fee for Kenyans prevented many locals from partaking in the social spaces afforded by the WSF in their home city or country. An international consortium of organizers, many of whom locally-based, charged $500 Shillings, more than $7 U.S. As one result, a Poor People’s Social Forum was established free of charge. Local groups responded immediately to the high cost of admission by providing spaces for dialogue to local people in a more accessible venue than the stadium. Furthermore, many Kenyans alongside others from around the world launched three days of protests outside of the Forum venue before local Kenyans were finally allowed to enter for $50 Shillings or even for free.
Secondly, the organization of the Forum can be described as a disaster. Before the Forum began, no signs were posted anywhere in the city that would have been very helpful for the registration process. In addition, very few resources and people were able to help all those seeking to register. The program of activities was printed late, which echoed previous WSFs, but it also was distributed in limited supply to give rise to very long lines under the very hot sun. The much desired information about logistics to register was not posted on the main website – www.wsf2007process.org – despite the reality that foreigners made up thousands of the approximate 50,000 delegates and early projections suggested some 150,000 people were going to descend upon the Kenyan capital for WSF 2007.
Despite all of the exceptional logistical difficulties, WSF 2007 unfolded through similar workshop formats and debates as its predecessors with the same underlying theme based in changing the world in the name of principles such as people over profits, peace, equality, cooperation, and ecological stewardship. It followed other WSFs by being a space of civil society actors focused on experiences, activities, and engagement of participating social movements, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and a diverse range of individual delegates from across the planet.
More than 1,200 workshop activities were self-organized by participating groups, but many were cancelled and many became relocated much to the dismay of participants who were onsite. Many informal networks of people arose to sell all kinds of goods for the temporary timeline of the WSF. This form of economy again proved another dynamic aspect of the Forum much like the reemergence of many NGOs and other organizations who set up booths for all those onsite. A strong presence of artisans particularly from Kenya and neighbouring countries reinforced an annual WSF commitment to prioritize venues that showcase vibrant expressions of culture based in music, dance, film, photography, and creativity. Many people crowded around a variety of cultural performances throughout the four days, while tens of thousands of delegates attended the Opening Ceremony (January 20), the Closing Ceremony (January 25), and walked in the colourful and celebratory marches. Yet the tendency in workshops again illustrated a deep divide between facilitators and somewhat disengaged participants because like previous WSFs a large portion of activities were led by academics, movement leaders. Activities were dominated by the English language and to some extent by French and Swahili.
The paradoxical method of self-organization embodies a participatory democratic mandate but the WSF workshops in significant part remained undemocratic in practice as facilitators and speakers over-talked the majority of delegate onlookers, which included multitudes of local people. The tendency of academic discourse and non-participatory activities had already been criticized by many who have written on the WSF especially since the completion of the third Forum of Porto Alegre.
Arguably the International Youth Camp (IYC) first articulated this problematic and proposed an alternative way of organizing space and interaction among social actors involved in the WSF process who were also motivated to experiment with constructing alternatives to capitalist daily life. The IYC attempted to put WSF principles into practice between 2002 and 2005 in a camp based on self-management of the physical construction of the venues and by using participatory methods of engagement in workshops and camp life. However, the IYC has experienced its own internal contradictions between organizers and participants and in Nairobi it had little impact as merely 250 people filled Camp spaces.
In any case, the nine major themes of WSF 2007 did encompass workshops on an incredibly wide-ranging set of complex contemporary issues far too expansive to explore here, but some topics such as children or reducing consumption were not adequately addressed. Moreover, young people and youth issues once again did not receive as much attention as many might expect in considering the overwhelmingly young demographics of activists who have been struggling to implement alternative social practices into daily life before 1999 and ever since the widely signalled turn in alter(native)-globalization movement activity that became rooted in November 1999 in the ‘Battle of Seattle’ in which mostly white western-based activists helped many delegates from developing countries to condemn and shutdown the Uruguay Round of Trade Talks of the World Trade Organization.
The central theme of WSF 2007 was encapsulated by the statement: ‘People’s Struggles, People’s Alternatives’. Although few strategic and practical alternatives were articulated through the Forum to counteract nor represent concrete steps to transform the prevailing global order of militarism, state and corporate power, neoliberalism and other systemic constellations of exploitation and domination, the will of determination and cooperation among delegates to achieve such objectives remained as motivated and urgently addressed as in previous WSF gatherings. New networks were formed such as the African Water Network and international days of action were agreed upon such as a Global Day of Action against Evictions on May 18th, 2007 and a week of actions against debts from October 14 to 21, 2007. Furthermore, the wsf2007process website effectively has been transformed to include many discussions and online collaboration between thousands of movements and people from around the world to coordinate activities and share information either for future activities or as reported from Forum events.
A greater diversity of people(s) can now be seen to lay claim to differing senses of experience and ownership over the WSF process and one great challenge for those involved in their own movements is to express alternatives by addressing the drastic social inequalities and discrepant privileges that exist in and between participants. It is of great importance that the Forum does not again repeat the reproduction of capitalist relations that made conditions very difficult for those from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds to both participate on equal footing and exercise their voices in an equal manner to those who came from Northern countries or who had the capacity to self organize events. Problems of security also remain fundamental to the WSF since many delegates were robbed onsite.
The economic exclusion of Kenyans illustrates why greater reflection and ingenuity are needed to make the WSF both a space that recognizes the realities of all people(s) and one which can become produced by and produced for people(s) of the world. The WSF Charter of Principles must be made to become more an exercise in practice than desire if the Forum is to continue being a relevant arena for networking and generating initiatives for social change. Otherwise the Charter faces a danger of in part representing a value-laden rhetorical set of statements. In such reflection it is critical to assess the ongoing roles of corporate advertisers and sponsors such as Banco do Brasil and Petrobras, and many questions arise with regards to the stark presence of the official sponsor of WSF 2007: celtel.
In 2008 the Forum will become a decentralized process and will take shape in different parts of the world as localized Social Forums without an accompanying world level gathering. The decentralization of the WSF was first put into practice in December 2001 at the inaugural African Social Forum, while the WSF Secretariat and IC successfully expanded the WSF model to Asia and Europe in 2002. The subsequent rise of continental, national, regional, and local Social Forums raises important questions for the future of the WSF process. The extent of coordination among and between both past and future initiatives remains crucial for enacting a permanent process of civil society to bring alternative worlds into realities. The activities of Social Forums over the next year present a window of possibilities towards the future shape of the WSF as directed at the next one in 2009 and as the light they will shed on the model’s efficacy as an instrument of strategic planning, dialogue, and consolidation to bring alternatives to life.
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The Social Aspects of Eating a Raw Food Diet. by Paul Nison www.rawlife.com
I have been eating a raw food diet for more than 12 years now, and teaching about making the transition to a raw food diet for about 7 years now. As I travel across the world, one of the questions I get most often is: “How does someone consume a raw food diet, while not being considered an outcast by society?” I thought when I first started eating this way many years ago, that this was going to be an issue for me as well. But to my pleasant surprise, I have found it to be very easy.
Like any change, at first it can be a challenge, especially when most of the world doesn’t understand the reason for the change or anything about it. The raw diet is different than any other way of eating. It is becoming the new “in thing” so it is not as challenging to be accepted by many people today as it was just a few years ago. However, when ever anyone makes a change in their daily diet, not only is it weird or different to the person making the change, but the response from friends and family can be difficult to deal with. In this article I want to give suggestions on how to be accepted by your friends, family and the world after making the decision to start eating a raw food diet.
It is good to know that years ago, consuming a vegetarian diet was considered weird or different. But today it is pretty much accepted all over the world. Today, the raw food diet is becoming accepted and there are more and more raw food, vegetarian restaurants opening all over the world, many in the United States.
First, if you plan to consume anything less than a 100% raw food diet (which is fine), you won’t run into the challenges as someone who wants to go 100% raw. You can just simply have cooked food on those occasions when you can’t get raw. If doing so, do your best to make sure the food is as healthy as possible.
Now, if you plan to go 100% raw, not to worry. Just like making the change from an animal eater to a vegetarian or vegan, how we handle the situation can make all the difference.
If someone tells you that you are sick, you might say to them, “How do you know how I feel?” But if 100 people come to you in one day and tell you that you are sick, you might start to think, am I? When first starting to eat a raw food diet, many people are going to tell you things like, “You are crazy; That’s dangerous; You need cooked food, or You can’t do that.” The more you hear it, the more you might believe it.
As long as you thought through the reason and purpose for going on an all raw diet, you should not be bothered too much by what others say. But if you are in doubt before they say anything, their words might take you over the edge.
Rule #1 Don’t go beyond your understanding. Do the research before changing your diet so when you get these comments, you will know you are doing the right thing.
Rule #2 Make the choice yourself and not because someone else talked you into it. As long as it is your choice to change, that will help keep you strong. But if you try to change for someone else, it will make it harder to stick with it when the pressure is on.
Even if you have the knowledge and you made the choice yourself, their words still might make you second guess your choice to go on an all raw diet. We are human and we have feelings and emotions. It’s like if you get a new haircut and think it looks great. You could be pretty confident in that feeling. But the more people tell you, your hair looked better before you cut it, or something like that. you will start to think, maybe you made a mistake. It goes the same way with the raw food diet.
The most important rule we have to learn is we cannot let our feelings override our decision. I call this decision over emotion. It is hard to be consistent if we are living off of “how we feel.” Just a few days on a raw diet, many of us will feel the need for cooked food. Also many of us will base our feelings on what other people tell us. This is why once we make a decision, we should learn to stick to it. Make a promise to yourself that your faith is so strong in what you are doing that you are going to stick with it, and no one is going to talk you out of it.
Once you feel confident in what you are doing, how do you deal with friends, family and others who think you have went off the wall.
*Do not get over zealous. It’s easy to believe so strong in the message that you just want to push it on everyone else. You and I most likely know, that the raw food diet is the healthiest way to eat our food, but it took us a while to learn this, and it might take other people a while. Accept all people where they are.
*Live by example. Let people see how great you feel and look. And how much energy you have. Then they will start to ask questions. That will open the door for you to give them the answers.
*Pray for them. I can tell you first hand, you cannot change anyone, but by prayer, you can help everyone. The strongest thing you can do for the people you love is not create separation in your differences, but pray that they will come to see and understand the message about the healing foods and why the sooner they start eating a raw diet, the better their health will be. There is a great saying I once heard that says, “Do your best and leave the rest up to God.” Well I can change that a little and say, “Pray for them, and leave the rest up to God.”
*How do you eat when you travel? This is a question I get most often. I have never had an issue with these because I can get fruits and vegetables everywhere.
The most amazing advice you will ever get on how to socially fit into society on a raw food diet. Three magic words, will make this path so much easier for you. No matter who it is, or where you are, these three words will work for you. Do not tell people you are eating a raw diet because….. Most people do not care about health or understand it, and they will think you are crazy. Here are the three magic words: “My doctor said…” If you tell them that, then they can accept it with no problem. (You really don’t have to try to find a doctor to say that. Most doctor’s will never say a raw diet is best, but just saying that will help them accept you.
Understand, most people do not eat for health. They eat for taste. If you are making food for your family, don’t put the food on the table and give them a health lesson. Just make the food taste great, and they will enjoy it, and you will enjoy most people accepting the way you eat.
If anyone tells you how to eat, just tell them nicely, “If you do not want me to tell you how to eat, please don’t judge my eating habits.” That should keep them quiet. If not, just shove a carrot in their mouth.
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