Archive for the 'social commentary' Category


on Van Jones and the Green Economy

Check out this interview with Van Jones from tonight’s Colbert Report:

Van’s organization Green for All is promoting the creation of “a green economy that is strong enough to lift people out of poverty.” Check out the website — we’ve been working hard on it at ONE/Northwest, I did much of the skin implementation, and it just launched this afternoon. (I spent much of the evening nervously watching to make sure the extra traffic following the Colbert interview didn’t overwhelm our servers.)



on Teaching Care for the Environment

My alma mater, Goshen College, is apparently experiencing something of a crisis in recycling. For a number of years, since recycling in the dorms was cut from the physical plant’s budget, it has been handled by a team of student volunteers associated with Ecopax (which I helped organize while I was a student). However, after too many semesters of struggling to get enough volunteers to help, Ecopax has decided to stop picking up the recycling in an attempt to get the administration to pay more attention.

Apparently the administration has expressed its support for finding a long-term resolution to the problem, which is good. But Becky Horst identifies a key question:

Should recycling at GC become normative, teaching creation care by institutional example only? Or should it become a system charged with helping to educate and create a culture of creation care on our campus?

I talked to a friend from Ecopax, who explained that one concern she has heard from someone in the administration is that actually paying students to pick up the recycling would be bad, since the college wants to encourage caring for the environment because it is the right thing to do, rather than because there is a reward. This sounds like a bad excuse for saving a few dollars. In the real world, change happens due to incentives; students can learn as much from seeing that in action as they can from organizing themselves (though both should be encouraged). A recycling program run by paid employees instead of volunteers is likely to be much more reliable.

In addition, from my time in Ecopax I know that the students at Goshen College who care about campus sustainability are never at a loss of ideas for new projects. However, recycling was often top priority and took time and energy away from more ambitious, interesting, and educational projects. Therefore, I think that institutional support for recycling is likely to aid rather than hurt the establishment of a “culture of creation care” at GC.

It doesn’t have to be either-or, and I encourage Goshen’s Ecological Stewardship Committee to seek a resolution that promotes creation care via both institutional example AND empowering motivated students to pursue their ideas.



on the Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today President Bush offered his thoughts on how Americans can honor the
memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But he missed the point.

“Our fellow citizens have got to understand that by loving a neighbor like you’d like to be loved yourself, by reaching out to someone who hurts, by just simply living a life of kindness and compassion, you can make America a better place and fulfill the dream of Martin Luther King,” Bush said at a library named for the slain civil rights leader. (AP)

I don’t want to knock the ideas of kindness and compassion, but to reduce King’s message to this is to cheapen it. King himself said, “Pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one’s soul.” King promoted not mere compassion, but justice. Simply trying to be nice to people, without recognizing and working to fix the systemic issues which place them in need, is like putting a bandage on a tumor.

Bush said that King’s holiday offers a chance to “renew our deep desire for America to be a land of promise for everybody, a land of justice, and a land of opportunity.” He said it should be a “day on” of volunteering – not a day off – and encouraged people to do community service year-round. (AP)

Now this sounds a bit more like something I can agree with. Our country is still in need of justice, as I am reminded when I hear of the struggles of recent immigrants or when I pass by the homeless here in Seattle, and yes, we should all get involved in making that happen. But let’s not stop with loving our neighbors; we are called beyond that.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven… For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?

— Jesus (Matt. 5:43-46)

What does this say regarding the situation in Iraq?

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Not just kindness and compassion here, but also toward our nation’s enemies is needed in order to “make America a better place and fulfill the dream of Martin Luther King.”

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mr. President, may we share that belief.



Tisn’t the Season

Today as I walked home I passed several establishments decked out with lights and greenery, as well as an ensemble singing “Christmastime in the City.” WHAT THE HECK?! We have all this technological gadgetry, and we can’t even celebrate our holidays in the right month???

Actually, I also notice that our primary election dates have been creeping forward as well. So maybe society knows something that our calendars don’t. Perhaps we should institute a leap month or two to put the calendar back in sync with what we’re actually doing. Forget the sun; it only shows its face while I’m at work anyway, these days.



on “Ethnic Food”

Is there anything more quintessentially American than a Chinese buffet?