Monday, May 12, 2008

Gas prices, child labor and army men?

My parents visited over the past few days. They left me a USA Today from this past Friday, May 9. So I read it. I usually don’t read the newspaper. I have issues with something you read once then toss. So I never buy them, but only read ones people give me (which is not very often; I might average 1 paper a month).

As I read this one, several articles caught my eye. They really have no relation to each other, but they all struck me as poignant in different ways. The first was a series of articles on rising fuel prices and their affect on our nation. It seems that people are becoming more conscious of fuel consumption - they are selling or parking their SUVs, riding public transportation, riding bicycles, and selling their homes far out in the suburbs to move closer to their jobs. It’s interesting to me that they could have been doing these things all along, but only now with pinched wallets change their lifestyle. This goes along with an article I read a while back in National Geographic. That author observed that almost every decision made in America, either on a macro or micro scale, is economically motivated. In relation to that, the impact of consumerism, environmental issues, and waste don’t even make the radar until rampant consumption, abuse of the environment, and waste are no longer affordable.

The second article that caught my eye dealt with child labor in Mexico. This article highlighted the fact that these illegal child workers pick crops which are exported to the US and Canada. These are not things we even really need to sustain life, but are crops like “spinach, cabbage and other vegetables that fill American salad bowls.” Other crops they pick are Asian vegetables such as baby lettuce, Chinese cabbage and spinach, all essential (sarcastic wink) to life in the US and Canada. Its good to know that these little Mexican kids are slaving away to put greens in our salad bowls. They should start taking pictures of these little kids and putting them on the front of salad packages. They could write something like, "This salad was hand selected by 9 year old Juan Gonzalez. Juan worked 10 hour days to this spring mix to your table. Gracias Juan!!"

The last article that caught my eye was one dealing with US Army bases and how the living conditions in some of them are not up to snuff. I understand that troops need places to sleep and shower, but here’s a quote in regards to temperature in one building that makes me wonder what kind of soldiers we have in the US Army:

“There are now two furnaces per barrack, but Corriveau (an Army official) said the building can’t be updated to provide room-by-room temperature control, upsetting many soldiers during the cold winters. (emphasis mine)”

It seems to me that there is something wrong with a bunch of ‘soldiers’ being upset by a being cold. I mean come on, what kind of people are being recruited these days? What kind of training are they getting? Al-Quaida is living in caves and our guys complain because they can't have better control over a room's temperature. But even worse, it was a soldier’s dad who helped break this story with videos showing “rusty stairways, peeling paint, broken toilet seats, a flooded bathroom and mold all around.” I agree the conditions aren't great, but just imagine his fellow soldiers' reactions when they found out their buddy's dad had been whining on his son’s behalf.

So America continues to amaze me as well as horrify me. I'm amazed at our greed and lack of concern for anyone but ourselves. And I'm horrified that the above articles are all true. Lastly as a disclaimer, I'm aware that I've greatly simplified all the issues represented in these USA Today articles and am aware that my analysis is tainted with my opinion.

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