Monday, December 29, 2008

As if fast food chains haven't done enough damage already

Have you seen the Burger King commercial in which some BK representatives go to remote areas of the world (where people eat things like whale and seal because that's all there is, which means they have probably never heard of BK or MickeyD's or any of that other poison) and have the natives eat a Whopper and a Big Mac? According to the commercial, these natives prefer the Whopper over the competitor's similar, yet not flame-broiled, greasy lump of gray processed meat and soy filler product. Although, the taste tester then says that, of course, neither option compares to the seal steak waiting for them at home.

Has Burger King not been made aware of the fact that a huge reason for the obesity and diabetes epidemics in Latinos, American Indians, and other populations is that their traditional diets based on things that they have grown in the ground for thousands of years have been replaced by processed food-like products that contain mostly fillers, salt, and sugar? (Just because soy and corn grow in the ground doesn't mean they're healthy as hydrogenated oils and shelf-stable materials, by the way.) Has no one told BK executives that introducing their flame-broiled taste to people in the arctic is probably not the most responsible thing for a company to be doing?

Maybe I'm over-thinking it. But it's one thing to tempt slovenly Americans with such fare. It's another to imply that greasy burgers on processed-flour buns could even compare to traditional diets that keep communities together.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Weapons of mass construction

I've been reading this book called "Three Cups of Tea," by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. I first learned about the book through an article about Mortenson in an Outside magazine article, and Mortenson is the perfect Outside hero: grew up climbing mountains with missionary parents in Africa, played football in Minnesota, became an Army nurse and general tough guy with a good soul. His failed attempt at climbing K2 in Pakistan led him to a remote village with children dedicated to learning despite the lack of a school or a full-time teacher. Mortenson was so struck by the kindness of the people in the village that he vowed to raise enough money to come back and build the village a school.

I'm at the part now where he finally made it back with the materials for the school, only to learn that before he could build it, he would have to build a bridge to transport the wood, concrete, and other materials across the river. From the Outside article, I know that he succeeded and has made it his life's work to build schools for other villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan, especially for girls. It's hard work, and he's truly a hero. Educating people in remote areas of the world is one of the best ways to ensure that they don't become ensnared in the political and financial grips of extremism like we have seen so much of recently. Mortenson's hard work makes me feel really guilty for whiling away the hours in front of a computer, pretending like the work I do will one day help someone. There's something more I can be doing. I just wish I could figure out what that is. I don't think I'm nearly crazy enough to attempt anything of this magnitude.

In any case, go read the book. It's a true story but reads like good fiction. You know that feeling when you get really wrapped up in a story and your stomach tightens when the protagonist is dealing with some kind of conflict? It's like that, only in fiction, you realize it's not true, whereas in this book, the realization that this really happened makes your stomach tie a double knot. Don't worry, it's worth it. At least, so far.