If I had a Magic Wand

I found this website via Pinterest that talked about giving people a Magic Wand. People just decide the things they want done and the wand makes it happen. **If I was still in the education system I think this would be a cool writing prompt at the beginning and end of a geography or government class.

So I started thinking about what I would do with my magic wand. I don’t believe in just giving hand-outs to people who haven’t worked or earned it but I also know there are many people who truly need help. I also believe that many of the speeches given by world leaders and pageant girls is “solutions to the symptoms, not the problems” type of thinking, and I don’t necessarily agree with that. So here’s what I would do with my Magic Wand:

*I would want everyone to have a job that they loved and were good at – whether that be a doctor, a teacher, a cab driver, or whatever. If everyone has a job then they have income and could provide at least basic needs for them and their families.

*Since I believe the population is already over populated I would want my magic wand to “create” zero population growth. Not that families couldn’t have children, but that the many, many, many kids that are abandoned and in foster care could finally get adopted and feel love and the warmth of a family.

*I would also want everyone to be at least a vegetarian if not a vegan. The world now chops down more rainforest for grazing than agriculture. Meaning we are cutting down forests to make cows fat for our own consumption. That’s just one negative consequence of consuming meat – do a quick Google search for impacts of consuming meat and you’ll see dozens of consequences: animal abuse, excess water usage, starving children around the globe, increased chemicals and hormones in your body, large amounts of animal waste, runoff and land degradation to name a few others. Here’s NPR’s story on eating meat, you can skip the first 1 minute and 40 seconds and stop about 6 minutes and 38 seconds, which talks about other NPR stories.

*I would also re-do local, national, and international infrastructure to be more sustainable with more mass commuting types of transportation. I firmly believe if we had bullet trains running all over the nation that would cut on a lot of carbon emissions from the millions of vehicles on the road and that people would prefer to take a bullet train that lasts three to five hours to get from LA to New York instead of driving or flying, which are both tedious and expensive. If there were more light-rails, and subways, and Personal Rapid Transit, I think people would appreciate the convenience and the time savings from not sitting in two hours of traffic everyday.

*I would want companies to think about cradle-to-grave manufacturing and produce goods and products that could always be recycled and reused. This would also lead to less “stuff” being taken out of the ground, chopped down, or used once and thrown away.

*I would do away with all the bureaucratic BS that surrounds the school system (at least in the United States). I would want teachers to teach life skills while also teaching content but in a way that’s FUN and meaningful. I’m taking graduate classes and I can’t even stand when the professor lectures for 3 hours, why do we expect that of high school students?! There were so many ideas I wanted to do as a teacher but they didn’t follow the standards 100% or didn’t set the students up to be successful on the state standardized testing.

*Which leads me to my next action: do away with standardized testing, at least the way it currently stands in the United States – it’s demeaning and doesn’t show what students can actually do or what students actually think; it only separates the students who know how to take a test vs. the students who don’t know how to take a test. I saw this kid speak in Loveland this summer and was so impressed by him! His talk is called, “Would Einstein get into Harvard?” And it talks about how the ACT and SAT are ruining high school students, and I couldn’t agree more. I’m so against standardized testing that I took it until I graduated middle school and haven’t taken a state or national standardized test yet! I went to schools that didn’t require ACT or SAT for admittance or at least didn’t require it of me after I had a degree, and I went to a graduate school that doesn’t require a GRE to get in either.

*I would also ask the Magic Wand to implement a flat tax everywhere! People complain about lack of fairness when it comes to the government and taxes, but what’s more fair than everyone paying the same amount?! How is it anymore fair to over-tax Bill Gates than an immigrant who moves to the United States, becomes an entrepreneur and creates wealth for them and their family?! It’s not! If everyone pays the same across the board – that’s fair!

*I would want everyone to take a class or seminar or something that taught people how to properly communicate with one another, like how to fight fair, and how to disagree with someone’s point of view without degrading the person, and basic conversation skills. I meet so many people at my restaurant that have no idea how to talk to another human being.

*I would also want the death penalty for those who did heinous crimes, specifically anything to do with children or animals. The fact that if we did away with the prison system we could send every student in America (including illegal immigrants)  to school from kindergarten all the way through 4 years of college is disgusting! (This statistic comes from Waiting for Superman). That money could be better spent on education children and creating a better and bright world, not keeping scumbags alive.

As you can see, I didn’t ask for world peace or for everyone to get along because that’s not practical to me because there will always be conflicts and problems. I know in looking at my list, there is a few items that are pretty controversial and I feel like that’s acceptable. Not everyone would want the same things I want if they too had a Magic Wand. I could probably keep adding and adding to my list, but I feel like this is a good start at solving majority of the world’s current problems! What would you do with your Magic Wand?



The “C” Word

NO! Not that word, get your mind out of the gutter… I’m talking about the word Conservation. Geography Awareness Week has been great but the icing on the cake has been the WWF Fuller Symposium I attended the last two days. I’ve learned so much and the only way I can express that is to tell you that over two days I heard 26 speakers and took 17 pages of notes! I had a great time, learned a lot, and now I’m feeling very inspired to, yet again, save the world. I won’t bore you with all of the notes I took because I know people are not as fascinated by sustainability and the environment as I am (I think I border obsessiveness) but I do think the repeated messages are important to the future of us as a race, the biodiversity on this planet, and the planet itself.

A topic that came up, by almost every speaker I might add, was the need for more science and more data. According to Wolfram Alpha, the field of conservation science is growing about 6%/year. Having more data will allow scientists to see if certain forests are recovering as expected, how many different animals there are in a certain park by sampling feces, checking out the toxicology of a river, whether hydropower and damming are creating enough energy to be worth it, when the best estimate is that the last polar bear will go extinct and why, and so on. There will be a huge need to fill in this gap of information with accurate and precise data. This information will be important to policy and decision-making and with this information comes the need for collaboration.

Repeatedly, people brought up collaboration. Countries need to collaborate with one another to create change; one example of this is the Jordan-Israel Peace Park. These two countries teamed up to create a Peace Park to help migratory birds across this area, which is such a great idea because two countries now have a stake in seeing that the park is successful. Another area of collaboration that was discussed was that scientists need to be in communication with policy makers and the policy makers need to be in communication with people and communities. There needs to be cooperation from every level and every area to make a positive impact on the planet. Conservation needs to be a part of the planning process not a detail we go back and try to fix afterwards – this is clearly a route that isn’t working for us.

The last topic I want to point out was that all the science and data does no good if we can’t get people to change. But you can’t force people to change, you can’t force data and facts at people, you can’t convince people to change unless you make it personal for them. People connect with stories and journeys and learning how they make an impact or can make less of an impact on a personal level. One speaker, Randy Olson, in particular mentioned that we need to be less scientific with conservation and be more artistic with it – poems, videos, sitcoms, etc… This is in sharp contrast to the second point I mentioned above, but what Randy Olson meant was that we need to be able to communicate the science of conservation.We need to make conservation available to the masses and make it less boring. There are no exciting movies on conservation and the one real focused movie out there, The Inconvenient Truth, isn’t even that great. It was profound at the time it was produced, but it only made an impact at the moment it was produced because it was “sciency” which was great for right after the five hurricanes hit the United States – but it wasn’t personal. As a future teacher, this would be a great opportunity to get students involved personally by writing a poem or creating a story or making a short video to post to YouTube. The possibilities are endlessly beautiful to make it more personal for people and make conservation more exciting.

So those were the top three repeated topics. There were many other intriguing speakers and wonderfully thought-provoking topics presented and I wish I could share all of them but I would recommend checking out the WWF’s website to see a full list of speakers. AND I would of course love to discuss everything I learned!

My parting thought: conservation has to be an everyone thing, not a some people thing.

Got Soy Milk?

So last weekend I bought my first container of soy milk. All biases and stereotypes aside, it was pretty good. It was like a watered down version of milk, but I drink skim milk anyways, so it wasn’t that different and I thought it was pretty dang good. I bought the vanilla flavored as opposed to the regular flavor, just in case – I didn’t want to waste my money on something I wouldn’t enjoy or finish. According to Alex, it had a nut flavor – I didn’t think so, but it was my first soy milk, so what do I know? However, I intend to buy organic milk in the future. Besides drinking the organic milk plain, here’s what else I did with the organic milk… 

  • I added some chocolate and made some pretty tasty chocolate milk.
  • I also added it to my egg-white omelet.
  • I added it to my Cheerios.
  • I used it in my hot chocolate.
  • I used it in my smoothie creation.
  • I used it as creamer in my coffee.
  • I added it to my ice cream to create a “blizzard” type concoction.
  • I even added it to my White Russian – which totally enhanced the flavor of the coffee liquor! Each and every time I could hardly tell a difference, if at all.

I believe I mentioned in a previous post that I would be talking about organic stuff and so this was not a random purchase, but it was indeed very intentional. I’ve been reading up about conservation and sustainability and it’s hitting me pretty hard. I call it the I-want-to-save-the-world plan or in the great words of Wangari Maathai, “be a hummingbird.”

Anyways, I’ve been reading and learning a lot about the differences in organic vs. inorganic foods. Meat was one of the items to come up, hence a previous post, and now milk has come under my radar. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert in any way, shape, or form,which is why I like to list books and websites that will be helpful and educational to other people, but reading up on the differences between organic milk and regular milk is pretty crazy. The websites I listed below are from National Geographic, so there is only a few, but they list other articles to check out and stumble through. Having now worked at NatGeo I know every piece of writing, from TV scripts to what is printed in the magazine to what is posted on the educational website, is fact-checked about three times over, IF not more. So I do not see the need to list additional resources besides those of NatGeo. Side story: One project I was working on, each fact needed to be fact-checked by at least four reputable resources! Being on that side of the fact-checking was definitely not my funnest job at NatGeo, but I definitely have more respect for NatGeo and the people who fact-check all day long!!!! 

Anyways, back to the soy milk… For those who just want to save the world, switching to organic foods is a great way to save the body and the world. Organic products are better for the environment because they do not create as much waste and they are more sustainable for the long-term because they do not do as much damage to the land in which the products are produced, whether that be fruits, vegetables, meat or dairy products.

Eating Organic Food by NatGeo – this article lists steps to have a more organic diet in general.

How Do I Eat Healthy and Organic? by NatGeo – this article is a very short read and similar to the previous website but it too lists steps to become healthier and eat more organic foods.

Organic vs. GMO by NatGeo – this article talks about what GMO (genetically modified organism) is and how that relates to being organic and healthy.

How To Buy Organic Without Breaking the Bank by NatGeo – well this article is just like it sounds :)) which is great because at this moment in my life I’m a very poor, struggling college student just trying to make a positive impact on the planet.

So this whole organic thing started because I wanted to save the world, and now it has developed into also wanting to be good to my mind and body, as well as good to Mother Earth. I’ve been eating more fruits and veggies lately – we bought apples, celery, bananas, pears, and onions in just one shopping trip! Which is pretty excessive for me, but I feel good about it. This health/save the world plan definitely won’t get be to drop the large bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup and sprinkles, but it definitely is making me re-think the other things I put in my mouth and into my body and the impacts it has on others.