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Scare Up Some Justice!

September 17, 2009

As you know, Halloween is rapidly approaching.  It is a time when some kids (and adults) get all dressed up in costume and march door-to-door begging for candy.  Honestly, it seems kind of pointless in the modern world (my apologies if you still believe that the dead are returning to ruin your crops).  If you are a parent or a teacher, you know that the day (or week) after Halloween is one of the most challenging and frustrating as the children purge the sugar from their systems.  So, I propose we give Halloween a purpose so that we can at least say the inevitable sugar-induced DT’s that our kids will put us through will be worth it. Last year, my family participated in Reverse Trick-or-Treating.  In case you didn’t follow the link, Reverse Trick-or-Treating – or RTT s I am now dubbing it because I am tired of typing it out – is when you go door-to-door and give out fair trade chocolate attached to a card that informs recipients of poverty and child labor problems in the cocoa industry, affecting mainstream candy enjoyed at Halloween and around the year, and how Fair Trade certified chocolate provides a solution.  If you sign up, you will receive a kit that looks something like this:

The response we got from it was fantastic.  I was honestly shocked at how well received it was by my neighbors (I live in a conservative suburb of Austin).  What was even better is that my then 4 year old son got to see that it was well received.  He was affirmed for being an activist and for trying to make the world a better place.  In fact, he asked to do it again this year.

I think Reverse Trick-or-Treating embodies the Inactivist creed of “creating change without causing a ruckus”.  It is a simple, non-threatening means of educating the public on a human rights issue while inviting them to help make the world a better place as well.  Plus – you are giving away chocolate…and who doesn’t love chocolate (besides my neighbor, Adam)???  Chocolate is the great unifier.

I can also envision modifying or expanding the concept of reverse trick or treating in a couple of ways.

1)  Give the same fair-trade chocolates attached to the same cards to the trick-or-treaters that come to your door

2)  Give out cards that address other social issues like violence against women or racism  like this…

TRICKORTREATFLYER_FRONT TRICKORTREATFLYER_BACK

FRONT/BACK

If we can create a collective consciousness, then we can begin to make some meaningful change.  Education is the key to raising consciousness.  It is not enough to leave this work to agencies and activists.  All of us can help share the work.  If we all do a little then nobody has to do a lot.

Please consider participating in some form of Reverse Trick-or-Treating this year and see how it goes.  The world will be a much scarier place if you don’t.

Happy Halloween!

The Inactivist

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Bright Idea!

August 26, 2009

I was thinking about a gift for my father, whose birthday is coming up in September.  He is a guy that pretty much has everything he wants (that is because he never really wanted much in the first place).  I haven’t come up with anything yet, so I decided to ask myself “what would an inactivist do in this situation?  Here is what I came up with…

lightbulb

An inactivist would give my dad 2 boxes of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).  Not as the entire gift, but as part of it – like a little something extra.  In fact, an inactivist would give 2 boxes of CFLs to everybody he or she was giving a gift.  I know. I know.  Some of you are saying “what the hell would you do that for?”  Well…it’s simple really.  I want people to use more efficient light bulbs.  The easiest way to make that happen is to give them away.  “OK, Ted…but why are you giving them 2 boxes?”  Good question.  I would give them 2 boxes so that they could use one and “pay it forward” with the other.  You know what “pay it forward” means, right???  It is the concept of asking that a good turn be repaid by having it done to others instead.  In other words, I’d ask them to also give CFLs as gifts and I would give them an extra box to get started.  Now all they have to do is buy 1 box and they will have 2 to give away.  Inactivisim is all about making the process easier for people to do.  Make sense?

While you are at it, make sure you wrap your CFLs and other gifts in environmentally friendly wrapping.  I like to use the reuseable shopping bags you can get at just about any grocery store.  They are just the right size and again, they promote something I’d like to see more of in the world.   Here is a picture of one in case you aren’t sure what I’m talking about:  shopping bag

***Did you know that if every American home replaced just one light bulb with an ENERGY STAR qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600 million in annual energy costs and prevent greenhouse gasses equivalent to the emissions of more than 800,000 cars?  Imagine what a whole box in every American home could do. Click here for more information about ENERGY STAR qualified light bulbs.

BrightIdeaWordle

Beer Me!

August 24, 2009

pintofbeerI love beer!  Not in the “if I drink enough of it I will forget my troubles” sense.  I love it because it is a refreshing, relaxing, interesting, complex, thirst-quenching roller of good times.  We can come together over a beer and talk about the world’s problems or the stupid things we did in high school (or still do).  Not to mention it is the perfect way to wash down a pile of Buffalo Wings from any place other than Hooter’s (I really need to blog about them – stay tuned).  Ah, beer.

Sadly, the beer industry does some pretty hefty social and environmental damage as it cranks out gallon after gallon of the golden nectar.  The industry has made a habit out of sexualizing and objectifying women to make a profit.  Companies like Budweiser, Miller and Coors are notorious for using images of scantily clad women in their advertisments.  Who could forget the Coors Light TWIIINNS???

Of course this is just one example out of literally thousands and thousands of print ads, tv commercials, billboards, and internet ads that bombard the advertising landscape from September to February.  Why you ask???  The answer is simple – football season.  This is a time of year that companies desperately clamor for the business of men by appealing to their inner man.  Sexy women doing sexy things in sexy clothing is one of the main sales mechanisms employed by these large beer companies.  In a hypermasculine culture, sexism sells.

This type of advertising is damaging in several ways.  Obviously, it objectifies and sexualizes women.  This teaches men and boys to value women for their looks and sexuality first (if not only).  It also teaches women and girls that in order to gain the interest of a male, you must behave in a sexual way – even if you aren’t interest in actually having sex.  It also socializes men to believe that men must act like the men in the commercials in order to be a “real man” or perhaps more accurately all men should behave like the men in the commercial because that is what is normal.  Naturally, if men are taught that women are sex objects that are available to them at any time and women are taught to behave sexually even if they aren’t interested in having sex, then you are bound to have scenarios in real life where men force themselves on women sexually.

Environmentally speaking, the beer industry makes a significant ecological footprint.  On the whole, the industry uses nearly 500 million tons of grains every year.  Since beer isn’t chunky, you have to wonder where all of the grain goes after it has been boiled and the sugars extracted?  In the pre-Budweiser days, smaller breweries would give their “spent” to local farmers who would used it for cattle feed.  This was a tremendous help to farmers and breweries.  It even kept costs lower on beer and dairy products because a production expense has been eliminated (there must be someting to this symbiosis thing after all).  Also, think about the amount of waste that is created during this time of year from the number of bottles and cans of beer consumed is staggering.  What about the massive amounts of petroleum products it takes to deliver the beer across the country to every grocery, liquor store, quick mart and bar in America?  The industry’s environmental load is taxing to say the least.

So, what should an Inactivist do?  Consider drinking craft beers or microbrews made in your state (or locally if possible).  Here is why:

1.  Smaller, independent breweries typically spend their advertising budget (if they have one) on showing you how good the beer is rather than using half naked women to divert your attention from the actual taste of the beer – AND TWIIINNS!!!  Taking your money out of the large corporate pockets just might get those companies to evaluate their advertising practices.

2.  If you buy your beer from a producer that is in your town or in your state, then you are helping to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and cutting down on the automobile emissions that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere, and helping local farmers keep their feed costs low.

3.  Buying locally made beer supports the people who live in or near your community.  Keeping your money local will help put food on the table for people who are trying to do things the right way and it send a loud and clear message to the large beer companies.

I did a quick Google search for “TEXAS BEER” since I live in Austin.  The first listing that popped up was http://texasbeer.blogspot.com.  Here I found a great list of existing craft beer breweries all in the state of Texas.  I have had most of these beers myself and they are quite good.  I especially like “Fireman’s 4” made by Real Ale Brewing  Company in Blanco, Texas (70 miles from my door) and “Blonde Bombshell” by Southern Star Brewing Company in Conroe, Texas (200 miles from my door).  Honorable mention has to go to “Live Oak Pilz” from Live Oak Brewing Company right here in Austin.

I encourage you to do a quick google search of your own to see what beers can be found in your neck of the woods.  You just might stumble on something you really like.  Craft beers might cost a few dollars more, but you can’t put a price justice.

Here’s to making the world a better place 12 ounces at a time this football season and beyond.

BeerMeWordle