Tag Archives: green

First Summer Trip 2012 Update

Saludos desde San Miguel,

As day four concludes, rain beats down on the roof of the GV office. Our boots are dirty. Many of us are sporting blisters from a productive morning of reforestation in Cerro Del Niño. It has been a gorgeous four days. We arrived in Guatemala City with the majority of our boxes (the remaining ones have been located!) and drove back through a darkened country side to our homestays. Arriving at night meant that participants had their first real glimpse of Guatemala first thing in the morning.

Though exhausted, I was up with the roosters (literally), breathing in the fresh air and marveling once more at the simple beauty of the mountains at sunrise. After a hearty breakfast of eggs, black beans, and fried plantains I headed down to the GV office where the Gringo participants and the Chapin participants met for the first time. In a departure from our usual itinerary we grouped up and went to the Garbage dump all together. For many of our Guatemalan participants, this was their first time visiting the dump which made the experience that much richer. After lunch with our homestay families,we visited Antigua to exchange money and then it was time to rest a bit.

The next day we jumped right into work. The Hospital work team headed to Antigua to meet their patients while Construction and Reforestation drove even further up into the mountains near Cerro Del Nino. Cero Del Nino is the site of a school GV built several years ago, so already we felt a sense of accomplishment and an excitement for things to come. This trip the Construction work team will be building a community center so that everyone in Cerro Del Nino will finally have a place to meet.

I am on the Reforestation team. We started our work day by walking up a huge paved hill. If I ever had any illusion about being in good shape, they are gone now, but we did all make it. There we took a moment to refill our water and play some games to help us get to know our Chapin counterparts. Many of the Chapin students have been volunteering with GV all year on different work teams so it was nice to see some old faces mixed in with the new. There was that first few awkward moments, but soon everyone was chatting in Spanish, laughing, and playing hand clapping games. Then we gathered our tools and more water and hiked up into the woods where we are clearing some brush before we plant 700 trees. One of our goals in planting these trees is to prevent erosion. Last Summer while we were here there was a huge down pour that caused a landslide in Pastores that knocked down 60 homes. Hopefully we can help prevent that from happening again.

All in all everyone is doing well, eating good food, making friends, and really make the best of this adventure. After work we had lunch and then it was on to our first day of school at La Union in Antigua. To celebrate our arrival all 40 teachers that will be working with us formed a human tunnel and clapped for us as we entered. Then we formed a circle and did short introductions before everyone paired up with their teachers for their first lessons. So many firsts…and yet for many it seems like they’ve been here before. In my next update I will share some exerpts from the LOD journals, but for now I will leave you with 3 poems written during our poetry session this afternoon.

Reagan Jackson
Program Manager


Untitled Poem
by Torin Frost

In this world of ours there’s few things that we need.
To drink and to sleep, and also to feed.
And the water we need simply flls from the sky,
but this only makes me wonder – why?

Does the sky cry for people who need clean water?
To the mothers and fathers, for their son and their daughter?
Or is it something else – involving moisture and science,
or a gift from God
it’s a necessity
our reliance.

But there’s a defiance to this system, it’s giant corporations.
Exporting to nations and having celebrations,
for profit these days seems to come before people.
And these people have the nerve to say everyone is equal.

Well, we’re not.

Because if rain is free, then why does water cost o much money?
And land and food, I thought it belonged to the Earth,
but money is needed the second after birth.
And if it rained everyday, water still wouldn’t be free,
not even to people like you and me,
because there’s something that comes before us,
and I hate to see,
if only it was us that came before money.


by Cora Wolken

I don’t know what happiness is.
I see it everywhere I go.
The ones with nothing have the most.
Why is that? Does money really not buy happiness?
I walk around here today
everyone has a smile, a spark to their eyes
they have a skip to their walk
a laughter to their voice. I know they are happy.
What does it take to be happy though?
I can’t just put on a smile and
add a skip to my walk, I am not happy.
I want an inner happiness
the one I see in the who appreciate,
the ones who don’t want more
but are content with just being there today
they know things happen for a reason
even though the reason is unknown.
Someone who is happy is someone I envy..

Untitled Poem
by Angela Tang

We chop down trees
We plant more
We run out of toothpaste
We buy more
We run out of ideas
We think more
We run out of space
We move more.
But what happens when we run out,
out of space, out of ideas, out of toothpaste, out of trees.
Will the sun suddenly explode to create new life again?
Or would we finally stop?




Using Food to Fit In: Immigrants Eating their Way to Americanism

Photo Credit to: Holly Hayes

By Valerie Lopez

It seems hardly plausible that in a mainstream culture fixated on fitness, fad diets, and losing weight that some people are actually gaining weight in order to fit in. Miracle diet pills, sprays, and other frills are plastered all over celebrity magazines gossiping on which frail young twenty-something has now checked into rehab for an eating disorder.

So then, how does it follow that these “people” are gaining weight to fit in? Isn’t this concept dissonant?

The University of Washington conducted a study, published in the June issue of Psychological Science, that shows how immigrant communities gain weight as a result of eating American food in order to prove their “Americanness.” Eager to demonstrate their efforts of assimilation, participants of the study preferred traditional American food when the legitimacy of their “American” identities were threatened.

On the whole, “the wide availability of cheap, convenient, fatty American foods and large meal portions have been blamed for immigrants packing on pounds, approaching US levels of availability within 15 years of their move.”

This might oversimplify the nature of the study, but here’s one of the discoveries researches made. A Caucasian interviewer prompted a group of participants with the question, “Do you speak English?” When faced with a subliminal threat that triggered insecurity about their American identities, 75 percent of the 55 participants wrote down American dishes as their favorite foods.

In another test to measure eating habits, researchers asked participants to select a dish at a local restaurant. Those who were prodded once more about the legitimacy of their identities beforehand tended to select more American style dishes, such as cheeseburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Sapna Cheryan, one of the study’s authors, theorizes that “people who feel like they need to belong in a culture will change their habits in an attempt to fit in. If immigrants and their children choose unhealthy American foods over healthier traditional foods across their lives, the process of fitting in could lead to poorer health.”

Public health studies also corroborate Cheryan’s claim: “diets of immigrants, including those from Asia, Africa, and Central and South America worsen the longer they stay in the US.”

Our culture’s fixation on beauty doesn’t quite explain the phenomenon exposed by Cheryan’s study. But our obsessions about national borders, xenophobic rhetoric, fixations on a pastoral American identity, and frankly, white privilege might explain the immigrants’ pressures to assimilate. But assimilation is just a polite way of saying erosion—or better yet—corrosion. The physical health of the immigrants is just a reflection of a troubled mentality of attempting to fit in to avoid conflict with mainstream culture.

Cheryan observes that “in American society today, being American is associated with being white. Americans who don’t fit this image—even if they were born here and speak English—feel that pressure to prove they’re American.”

For more information on the study, click here.

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Argo-Ecology: Turning Garbage into Gold

Written by Camron McDonald

Agro-ecology is a term that refers to an organic (meaning no synthetic chemicals) system of growing food in which all the waste products from one part of the system are used as fuel or fertilizer for another part of the system.  In this way, agro-ecological farms are inherently sustainable, just like a forest or an ocean, because they produce no waste products and they don’t eat up scarce resources that cannot be readily renewed.

An ecological farm is highly integrated, meaning that all the different parts of the system work together.  For example, an ecological farm is likely to be growing both animals and plants because animals and plants can benefit from each other.  The manure from the animals is used as compost for the plants; Pigs and cattle consume any excess food waste; Chickens can be used in the fields to eat pests, till the soil, and fertilize on the spot.

Large organizations such as Heifer International and the UN Food Agency have adopted the terms “agro-ecology” or “ecological farming” as their way of describing this highly efficient method of  growing food but another term that could be used  is “Permaculture”.  This term was coined in the 1970’s by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren.  While the principles of permaculture can be applied at any scale from dense urban settlements to individual homes, one of the most important aspects of this design discipline is that all wastes become resources. Continue reading Argo-Ecology: Turning Garbage into Gold

Oil, Coffee, and the Call for the Ethical Consumer

Image from artscoffee.com

Written by Valerie Lopez

The political turmoil embroiling Northern Africa and the Middle East affects the rest of the world in a multitude of interesting ways.

China is currently harnessing state power to suppress dissent in order to prevent a similar grassroots-led movement against the government. Late night pundits and morning anchors are in constant dialogue about the possibilities of democracies in the Arab world.

But these uprisings aren’t just affecting Americans as spectators, but as consumers as well. The chaos in Libya has spiked gas prices up to $3.50 per gallon, yet another blow to US consumers still recovering from the Great Recession.

As a country, we can no longer afford a dependency to oil. While there are blossoming technological alternatives to fossil fuels, we still need to curb our gross energy consumption for political, economic, and environmental reasons.

Amanda Little, author of “Power Trip: The Story of America’s Love Affair with Energy,” recently wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times with an innovative suggestion to curtail our overall energy consumption. Like the food industry, the oil industry can be changed by consumer choices.

Little asserts that when food products publish their trans-fat and caloric amounts, Americans in general make better decisions about their food purchases. In 2007, when food manufacturers were required to provide saturated and trans-fat content, 95% of supermarket products were reformulated with healthier fats to anticipate consumer preferences for healthier choices.

This is just an example of how consumer habits can change the markets. Similarly, with Little’s suggestion, Americans can start making informed decisions when the activities they partake in and the products they purchase can be labeled with a similar energy consumption intake. Our fast paced lifestyles are morbidly glutinous when it comes to energy consumption, and the effects have been externalized from the cost.

Gross depletion of natural resources, pollution, climate change—these are only a few examples of the worldwide disease from too much energy consumption. The only way we can overcome our over-dependence from oil, is to become enlightened consumers. Just as nutritional labels inform the way we eat, energy labels can shape our daily activities into daily contributions towards a healthier planet.

But let me go back to the subject of political turmoil. In the book “Hot, Flat, and Crowded,” Thomas Friedman makes a correlation between the price of oil and the relative amounts of civic freedom experienced by the local population of oil-exporting nations. While the correlation isn’t exact science, the interpretations are no less interesting.

When the price of oil is high, civic freedoms of the people are relatively low. Friedman theorizes that because governments find natural resources so lucrative, they have less motivation to invest in their people, much less their welfare. The wealth derived from oil does not get distributed fairly on a national scale. Now, when oil demand is high, oil prices spike upwards. While we enjoy our own civic freedoms, what do our oil-consuming habits mean to the welfare of a population across the globe?

I admit it’s very hard to experience empathy when another person’s suffering is so distanced from us, even nearly effaced. And in such a case, we can also consider how our consumption habits are affecting us too, and not just in gas prices.

On March 6th 2011, the front page of The Seattle Times highlighted the plight of Costa Rican coffee farmers and their depleting coffee production as a direct result from climate change. Coffee exporting countries are facing lower yield productions, which can no longer keep up with the world wide demand for coffee world wide. What will happen when a global coffee shortage hits? Will we ironically awaken from the slumber of political apathy?

Coffee trees, evolved to thrive in tropical climates (and in Costa Rica’s case, microclimates) are suffering from the radical changes to Costa Rica’s climate. Erratic rains, droughts and temperature changes have contributed to a dramatic increase in pests and plant diseases, early blooms, withering trees, and thus an overall blow to production yields.

Roberto Mata, a producer for Starbucks who runs a co-op in Costa Rica, is worried about the steady trend of coffee decline.

“Some people do not know what we are suffering. They can go shopping and buy a bunch of items and throw them all away, and they can sit in their cars for six hours and think it’s not affecting somebody. It’s affecting somebody.”

In the next couple of days, The New York Times illuminated the strife of Colombian coffee farmers, whose coffee production has also been slashed by record high temperatures.

Countries that mainly export coffee derive a lot of national income from their products. When climate change affects coffee quality, not just yields. Coffee aficionados in richer countries snub poor quality coffee, which adds to the plight of coffee growers. When income is low, investment in community development dips, and the overall quality of life spirals downward.

Again, these relations aren’t an exact science, but we can see the saddening trends. Our habits affect someone else in the world—even at this very moment, while you’re reading this blog entry and consuming energy.

Times are changing, and the calls to heroism are inextricably tied to our everyday quotidian choices. Riding your bike, or walking, or eating locally grown food can make a huge difference in the lives of people unknown and distant to us.

Our choices ripple across the world. Being an ethical consumer means making informed choices, and this is where the demand for transparencies from governments and industries can be so powerful.

As we consumers wield the power to change markets, we also wield the power to change the world, one good decision at a time.

The EarthCorps Work Team: An Introduction to an Integral Part of the Seattle Leadership Program

Earthcorps Workteam members pull invasive weeds at Dr. Jose Rizal Park over the MLK weekend. From Left to right: Arianne Lozano, Diaba Kaba and Kelly Pham

Written by Fiona Kuipers

An important component of Global Visionaries’ year-long student leadership program is its continuing partnership with EarthCorps, an environmental nonprofit organization based in Seattle. Together, EarthCorps and GV have been helping to empower youth to be active and conscientious environmental leaders in their communities.

Awareness of environmental issues is higher today than at any other time in recent history. EarthCorps is taking advantage of this opportunity by providing students with a chance to restore threatened areas and teach the younger generation what they have learned.

EarthCorps brings together environmental leaders from all around the world to form an international group of volunteers to work on projects in the Puget Sound region. These volunteers further develop their leadership skills by managing thousands of local volunteers in smaller groups, including students from GV.

EarthCorps members and volunteers contribute more than 100,000 hours of environmental community service every year.

Global Visionaries’ EarthCorps volunteers are taught in depth about environmental issues both globally and closer to home. By making positive changes together as a group, student volunteers are able to realize the impact of these environmental issues by seeing first-hand how they can affect their community.

Last month, the EarthCorps work team cleared an overgrown area of Interlaken Park on Capitol Hill. Brenna Sullivan, a GV participant on the work team, said she’s having a lot of fun contributing to the beautification of her home town.

“I got to know a lot more people [in Global Visionaries] while clearing the ivy and it ended up being a really good accomplishment,” Sullivan said. “We definitely noticed the difference afterwards.”

The skills GV students learn at Culture Nights are further developed when given the opportunity to apply them practically with hands-on service work. GV’s partnership with EarthCorps enables them to experience a particular and important sense of community with opportunities that are not afforded to many of their high school peers.

During the next five months, the GV EarthCorps team will work one Saturday each month to restore parks in the Seattle area.

To get the most recent updates, news, and photos from the EarthCorps work team, you can find it on this blog.

Workteam member, Jill Alverson hanging out with the worms

Start the New Year on the Right (Reduced Carbon) Foot(print)

Make it your New Year's resolution to help save our precious environment.

Written by Chelsea Ward

The chaos of the holidays is over and we’ve said goodbye to 2010. Now it’s time to reflect, set goals and move forward into 2011.

With a new year comes a clean slate. We encourage everyone to take a few moments to think back over 2010 and ask themselves a few important questions:

Did I reduce, reuse and recycle as much as I could have? Was I conscious of the impact I was having on my neighborhood, my city, and ultimately the world?

Albeit, these questions may be a little broad and difficult to answer, but none the less, they get you thinking. It’s far too easy for us to forget that our actions and decisions do make a difference; and not always a good one. That is why it’s important to reflect on our previous actions, recognize the things we did well and habits we want to continue and build upon, and truthfully acknowledge where we could use some self-improvement.

Here are a few tips to help keep you on track toward being a conscientious local and global citizen in 2011:

Conserve water! Wasting water wastes electricity, too. In most cities, the largest use of electricity is dedicated to supplying water and cleaning used water.

•Instead of taking a bath, which can use up to 70 gallons of water, opt for a five minute shower which only uses 10 to 25 gallons.

•Cleaning a full load of dishes in the dishwasher uses 37% less water than washing them by hand. However, to be even more efficient, you can fill up one side of the sink with soapy water and the other side with regular rinse water. If you try washing your dishes this way you can actually conserve enough water for that five minute shower.

Perhaps the most effective expression to always keep in mind: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!

•Go shopping with your own reusable grocery bags. Americans throw away nearly 100 billion polyethylene bags per year (which can take 1,000 years to decompose).

•Purchase your own personal water bottle. America goes through 25 billion plastic bottles a year. Buying one means you never have to buy another again!

•Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a 100-watt bulb for 20 hours, a computer for three hours, or a TV for two hours!

•Reduce your carbon footprint by avoiding driving alone. Walk, bike, jump on the bus or carpool to get around. You can also make new friends this way.

So here’s to a great 2011. Make it the best, smartest, and greenest you possibly can!

Source: Environmental Protection Agency WaterSense program.

What are Culture Nights?

Culture Nights are the vehicle for GV's global, environmental, and social justice curriculum.

Written by Sophia Gardner

Culture Nights are the vehicle for global, environmental, and social justice curriculum to be delivered to program participants in preparation for travel to Guatemala.  Since beginning the program a month ago, participants have already attended three Culture Nights.

Culture Nights are run by the Leaders In Training, a branch of Youth Board that facilitates and leads students through the First Year Leadership Program.  The first Culture Night is designed as an introduction into the philosophy of Global Visionaries and the logistical components behind the program.  Students and parents meet fellow participants and begin their journey with GV towards a more just and sustainable future.

At the second Culture Night, participants learn about how fundraising is integrated into the GV experience.  In Global Visionaries, every student raises funds for the Project Fund.  The Project Fund finances the projects that participants complete in Guatemala.  Through fundraising, participants have the opportunity to educate people on their personal leadership development and also invite them to be a part of the global shift GV is committed to build.

Environmental justice is the focus of the third Culture Night.  Participants participate in a simulation called the Red Green Game that examines human society and social patterns and developing into a conversation about the Ecological Footprint that people leave on the planet.  Participants make commitments to reduce water usage through various conservation methods to reduce the environmental impact they make on the planet.  Reducing shower length, capturing and using greywater to water plants and flush toilets, and washing only full loads of clothing in cold water were some of the commitments made at the Culture Night.

The transformation that begins in each participant’s journey to develop leadership and examine global issues is profound.  Participants are delving into social issues to gain experience and understanding to better articulate and elaborate on their experiences in the local and global community.  Before the trip to Guatemala, participants have several more Culture Nights to expand their knowledge and prepare for their voyage.