Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day

Today we are celebrating none other than our beautiful planet Earth, or what’s left of it. There are certainly still gorgeous places to visit and magnificent landscapes to admire, but the number of destroyed and polluted areas increases dramatically with every word I type today.

April 22 was first marked as Earth Day in 1970 when Gaylord Nelson, a US Senator from Wisconsin, outraged by a massive oil spill in the previous year and inspired by the anti-war movement, decided to take a stand and convince people to join hands in a movement for sustainable environment and against water and air pollution. That year, millions of Americans participated in a wide-spread protest against deterioration of the environment. In 1990, Earth Day became a global initiative (The Earth Day Network). 

Even though protecting the environment is now a world issue, there are still many who believe that pollution, deforestation, and mostly global warming are a huge hoax. And that’s their right to do so. But when there are signs all around pointing to the opposite, they can call it whatever they want, it still doesn’t change the fact that humans are slowly destroying the diverse, well-organized and only home that they have. 

First, researchers studying the ice of Greenland have witnessed and experienced first hand the increasing meltdown. Eskimo villages have had to relocate and the future of the polar bear has been threatened.
Next, it is estimated that around 35 to over a 100 species become extinct every day. It is important to realize that even the smallest and seemingly insignificant organism has its place in the cycle of life and without it, the cycle is placed off balance. A great example of what impact an organism has in the chain is the one of gray wolves re-introduced to Yellowstone National Park. This is marked as one of the most successful conservationist efforts. 

Moreover, deforestation continues to spread rampant in the Amazon Rainforest. On the average, 7,000 square miles are cut and burned every day. Considering that the forest produces 20% of the oxygen we all need to breathe and live, its destruction must be a concern for all and its protection must be on everyone’s agenda. 

The above three examples are just a small portion of the large amount of evidence pointing to the fact that humans are methodically and surely contributing to the obliteration of the planet Earth, the only one that we know of that can support us. Most of the information I have provided can be found in the two documentary movies I have listed below. I would strongly recommend them to anyone interested in finding more about both the grandeur and fragility of our planet. 

- Krasi

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Earth Week

I can't believe I haven't blogged about this yet! It's Earth Week folks! Tomorrow Friday April 22nd is Earth Day! How will you be celebrating?

I recently came upon this website where you answer a few questions and it calculates your carbon footprint and other measurements of what your impact is on the planet.

Well I did mine and I received a 5.69 meaning if everyone on the planet were to follow my lifestyle, we would need 5.69 Earths. Ouch. I can't tell if that is below or above the national average as that statistic is not shown on the website but regardless of where I stand relative to others, I know that is a number I need to work on.
Some suggestions made by the interactive quiz to reduce my impact:

- Drive less (I live in Houston, not easy to do)
- Choose sustainable design features for my home (I have long been wanting to get solar panels)
- Take shorter showers (I definitely am going to work on this. I've reduced my time to 30 minutes but my goal is now going to be 15 minutes)
- Buy recycled products (I already do this with paper towels but I want to start looking for clothes and home goods that are made from recycled products and start 'thrifting' more in order to consume less new and shiny things)

What about you guys? Have you taken the quiz? Do you already do the things I mentioned above?


Earth Day Events

- A

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Of all the alarming statistics in the United States, perhaps the most alarming (in my opinion) is that every 2 minutes in the U.S., someone is sexually assaulted. EVERY 2 MINUTES. This number includes all ages and sexes.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The biggest power that a perpetrator holds over his/her victim is fear; fear of embarrassment, social censure, or even retaliation. This fear is permeated throughout our culture as we don't want to talk about the huge elephant in the room even if it is to simply state that you wouldn't do anything like ostracize someone who has been assaulted. It's not their fault and they should know that, right? Wrong.

Having worked with survivors of sexual assault, I can attest to the fact that the insanely simple act of letting people know that it's OK to talk about it, to be angry about it, to report it and not be's not their fault! Just letting them know that you'll listen is so simple yet so.effective.

So I urge every one of you to let the people in your life know that should (God forbid) anything ever happen, you are there. You will listen and help; there is no judgment here.

Take it a step further and form a group to learn self defense.

We live in a nation where we can speak freely about this issue. Let's exercise that right fully.


Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network

Rape Aggression Defense (RAD)

- A

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On the Importance of Writing

I recently came across an article written by Michael Munger and published in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The content focuses on the topic of non-fiction writing and why so many are so bad at it. Enjoying writing myself, I thought it clever and right on the money to consider creating such an article. The 10 tips on how to write less badly are most certainly great points that I think many should pay attention to. 

The fact is, whether we enjoy it or not, writing is a part of our everyday lives and is a major aspect of communicating with each other. It is constantly surprising to me how many believe that unless you are going to write a book, you really do not need to be that good at writing. And those who think and believe that, become bad at it. I notice the lack of this skill every day at work. The larger part of my job consists of communicating with students via email. In addition, I also enjoy being a writing tutor and this certainly gives me the opportunity to see some bad student writing. Not all is bad, but most is. And it is bad not because the students really can’t learn to write, but because they don’t think it is an important enough skill to learn. It is simply amazing to find out on a regular basis that many are under the impression that writing is a talent: one is either born with it or not. Which is probably true in terms of coming up with the story, the creative idea, the characters that will captivate an audience. But Munger’s article doesn’t discuss this part of the writing process. The author stresses nonfiction writing, the writing we all have to do in school or at work. This aspect of writing can be acquired, can be customized and most importantly, can become less bad.  

I agree with the 10 tips Munger has provided and as far as I am concerned, they will be pinned to my wall so that I can read them every day and remind myself that the writing skill takes effort and practice; it does not appear from thin air. 

- Krasi

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gap, inc.

Ah the Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy. Three of my favorite stores to shop at. I love their styling, great sales, and commercials (the Gap holiday commercials are always super fun!).

I haven't been there in a couple of months, since before the 30 for 30 challenge as I wanted to investigate their business practices before I went back.

The Gap brand was founded in 1969 and experienced tremendous growth in a short amount of time. Like many retailers, it turned to factories overseas to meet demand. It was not until 1992 that the company outlined a code of sourcing guidelines to ensure ethical practices. The responsibility for enforcement of these guidelines, however, was up to the suppliers so Gap did not have a direct hand in controlling the factories (like many large companies). In 1996, after finding violations in several factories, Gap decided to make their own compliance team that oversees the application of their guidelines (but the factories still remain independent contractors). Since then, Gap, inc has been identified as the most ethical company by the Ethisphere Institute several times (2007-2009, 2011).

To be honest, as I was researching this I was skeptical. My skepticism grew when I couldn't find one negative piece of information regarding Gap's practices. I mean, come on, this is big business we're talking about here! Surely they have done something wrong at some point!

Then, aha! I found it! Gap, like many retailers (see: Forever21) put pressure on factories to produce at a rapid pace, which in turn caused the factory owners/managers to put pressure on the workers through unethical means (long hours, low pay). Where did I find this information? Why Gap's Social Responsibility report! So wait, they called themselves out? That is unheard of in big business. Adding to Gap's halo is the fact that every time concerns have been raised (such as child labor) they have responded immediately but not by denying or letting legal take over but by being honest and dealing with the situation by sending out their compliance team to resolve the issue.

Bottom line: I'm pleased that I can continue to shop at my favorite retailer, however, as an enlightened consumer (as I endeavor to be) I know that public pressure/demand for ethical practices counts for a lot so I feel that we should applaud Gap, inc but also remain vigilant about any problems as they arise. CEOs will change and with them business practices may as well so keep apprised of the situation folks!



Ethical Corporation

How wonderful is it to be able to shop at a mainstream store and know that the money you are spending is contributing to fair practices! How about you? Do you shop at any one of the Gap, inc stores?

- A

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Houston Indie Book Festival

Last Saturday, A and I spend some time at the Houston Indie Book Festival. I definitely enjoyed it and even though there were many books I wanted to buy, taking into consideration the limited time for reading I have, I only bought a couple. I guess it’s true: so many books and so little time to read them all!

One aspect of the festival was certain – there was a genre/topic/story for a plethora of tastes. During the past one week, I spent some time (not as much as I would’ve liked but such is the fate of the working Homo Sapiens) reviewing the websites/blogs of many of the authors, publishers and groups we had the chance to talk to and have included their information below. Enjoy!

Cathy Clay: A first-time published writer who I absolutely had to support in her endeavor and, as such, bought her first book. Managed to obtain an autograph as well:). 

Betty Gordon: Author of mystery novels

Anne Marie Novark –“Old-fashioned Romance with a whole lot of sizzle…”

Cornelia Amiri: Celtic Romance Queen

Inprint: Inspiring readers and writers

CLAW – Clear Lake Area Writers

-          Krasi

Friday, April 8, 2011

Walmart part deux

All right folks, it is time to discuss Walmart's actions outside of the United States. I've already spoken about Walmart's unethical actions within the U.S. As you probably know, Walmart imports a lot of products. Walmart contracts with foreign factories to produce goods for their stores. While Walmart doesn't directly own or operate these factories, their actions indirectly create the circumstances for ethical violations to occur and to continue unchecked.

Walmart, in an effort to keep prices low, puts pressure on the factories to produce items at a certain cost or they'll walk. The factory is left with two (both equally unsavory) options: close down the factory when Walmart cancels the contract or lower prices to Walmart's standards by lowering working standards and pay for the workers. There have been numerous lawsuits filed by these workers against Walmart. According to Global Exchange,

In September 2005, the International Labor Rights Fund filed a lawsuit on behalf of Wal-Mart supplier sweatshop workers in China, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nicaragua and Swaziland. The workers were denied minimum wages, forced to work overtime without compensation, and were denied legally mandated health care. Other worker rights violations that have been found in foreign factories that produce goods for Wal-Mart include locked bathrooms, starvation wages, pregnancy tests, denial of access to health care, and workers being fired and blacklisted if they try to defend their rights.

Just last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the case of Dukes v. Walmart. A group of women from Walmart's operations around the world banded together to hold Walmart accountable for allegedly discriminating against female employees. The hearing was to determine if the women could be classified as a 'class' and if so, this would be the largest class action lawsuit in history. In typical large corporation style, this case has been dragged out for 11 years, according to Walmart Watch.

So the question at hand: is Walmart really culpable in the mistreatment of the workers producing its wares although it does not own the factories? I definitely think so because Walmart is a large corporation with a lot of power, which it knows. It regularly uses this power to knowingly manipulate vendors. When faced with financial ruin, these companies turn to ethical compromise which is not OK either. This is a systems problem, starting at the top.

 Let's not forget that we, the consumers, are part of this system as well. As those of you who know system theory, a change in any part of the system causes the entire system to change. In other words, small change can lead to big change. You can do something.


Students Against Sweatshops

International Labor Rights Forum

- A

Monday, April 4, 2011


....feet that is! Tuesday April 5th is One Day Without Shoes, a movement started by Toms Shoes. This wonderful organization sells shoes (that are super comfortable I hear!) for a philanthropic cause: for every pair bought, they give a pair to a child in need. How great is that?! You can buy online and I personally have spotted them at Whole Foods.

So the premise of the event is to go one day without shoes. Simple, right? There are events being held across the nation so be sure to check out the website to find one near you! As for me, I don't think the boss would take kindly to me walking around barefoot so I will be participating in the Virtual Without Shoes event.

Shoes are one of the many many things we take for granted. Can you imagine walking miles without shoes? Playing games without shoes? Walking in the extremely hot summer sun without shoes? People are picking up entirely preventable diseases from walking around barefoot.

What do you guys think, will you be participating in the event? Do you own a pair of Toms shoes?

- A