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Development, developing, over developed…and our ENVIRONMENT

Waste not want not…got a lot got it all…want a little let’s shove CAFTA up everyone’s ass as the answer. Returning home I reflected upon many lectures I attended and the many sidebar interviews with people I met in Nicaragua, I shared my findings with my father.

My father a now retired machinist from a local paper company in our home city is a great example of NAFTA/CAFTA failures. He worked as a machinist for more than 30 years and was forced into early retirement because the shop was closing down. When did it become to cheaper to fix the parts overseas than in the same city they break down in…There’s also his mother who worked at a local shirt factory in our city that closed down years ago and it would find itself back in my life in Nicaragua. I always wondered where Hathaway shirts ended up.

My dad and I talked about my trip and the things I learned. What I saw and how I felt about both sides of CAFTA and I told him I discovered that no one there likes it either. We talked about how our government created this great deal to create free trade but really all it allowed was for jobs to get shipped overseas because labor was cheaper. I also shared that the third world nation is getting screwed hard by over developed nations coming into their country delivering goods like beans and rice cheaper from China or the USA than they can produce in their own country. It had a familiar ring…NO ONE IS GAINING from NAFTA/CAFTA so why can’t we put the kybosh to it!?

The current countries trapped in this mess are: The United States, El Salvador (March 2006), Honduras (April 2006), Nicaragua (April 2006), Guatemala (July  2006), the Dominican Republic (March 2007) and Costa Rica (January 2009).

The idea that I live in a country that deems it necessary to shove it’s ways as the only way possible down everyone else’s throat makes me want to throw up. CAFTA and NAFTA are such excellent examples about just how wrong we are. They entered into these agreements saying how both countries would benefit from the free trade…It would improve their lives and ours. Let’s see if I can explain what I have seen so far and you tell me if improvements have been made…

I live in a very small state where pulp and paper industry has been the backbone of what keeps us going. Over the years I have watched one by one mill after mill, close…These mills employed hundreds of thousands of workers. The tax paid by the business would be enough to run schools and keep the roads maintained in their towns. The mills became big empty run down eye sores in each deserted little town, costing the town more money to have the vacant building, the people have lost their homes, and been forced to start over, some of these people are in their 50s and 60s, starting over in a market that is flooded with youth is virtually impossible.

Then there is the theory that being able to have free trade would improve our businesses productivity. Prices went up, quality came down, and availability on many old familiar things would begin to disappear.

In America we are obsessed with STUFF over production and a throw-away society…It is a contagious disease too. We have spread it and infected half the planet with our sickness. Which, had been good for some businesses until the bubble burst, and no one had any money.

Let’s look at the car industry, the housing industry and the food industry as a few examples. Americans are obsessed  with keeping up with the Jones cars and trucks, their big fat houses and we love to eat –we are the fattest people on the planet. The problem came in the car industry when it cost more to make the car than you could make selling it. You see we have the onset of a shrinking society and the baby boomers have begun retiring faster than our nation’s economy can absorb. Families are smaller, woman are having babies later, and we refuse to grow our population by opening our borders...So 2/3 of the population is collecting benefits after having worked for 30 years, now the car maker has to pay out and doesn’t have it to pay, let alone the capital to keep its current employees working the line. Gas soared and we all stopped driving sending the vehicle industry into a tail spin and nearly collapsing the backbone of American jobs. The housing industry was hammered hard as the banks stopped being able to lend because no one was saving or spending, much less had a job, and they started folding one by one. Houses and our obsession with huge homes with multiple bathrooms, walk-in closets and bedrooms for all, a room for every television and computer started to bite us square in the ass. With mills closing left and right it was also closing all the small business next to them and forcing people to sell their homes or be forced into foreclosure because no one can afford to buy homes.  Then there's our lovely food industry we fat Americans love to over eat shove everything and anything into our fat faces. Over consumption, fast food fast times...We can't afford our car payment or house mortgage be we gotta have our Starbucks, Dunkin, Horton, you name them…our fat assed obsession with the soy bean grande lattes with steamed milk and a triple shot of espresso–is gross!

Here come the other side of the problems…these third world countries we are trying to shove our industries into are not ready for them. These countries still do not have developed roads, electricity, running water, sewer, proper housing, education, medical facilities and governmental structure. We go into these places saying oh hey sign this document and you will get lots of jobs and be able to sell your stuff in our country making you very rich. Computers are the wave of the future…Imagine the bean farmer in Northern Nicaragua who has never had electricity or running water, never owned a car, never afforded an ox, or roof for his house, never been able to put proper shoes on his 9 children’s feet, never mind send them to school or inoculate them for diseases. He doesn’t even know what you are talking about because all he has ever known is his little patch of land in Nicaragua and now you are promising him the moon.

That moon never comes because what really happened is he never got anything out of the deal. He still has no power, no water, no road, and lives in his plastic bag sided hut, now his kids, kids are not going to school, none of them have ever seen a doctor or were born in a hospital, even his own government has turned a blind eye to him. Now, he hears about Coca Cola, Hathaway, Nike, Levis, Wrangler, Under Armor and other companies coming in with good paying jobs but hasn’t actually met anyone who works there. He keeps having faith though that his farm will continue to progress and his ability to sell more of his beans than last week will improve…Ahhh the beans. Then one day his wife goes to the market and discovers imported beans from America on the shelf cheaper than they can sell theirs in the in the market! Free trade. Hmm.

This same issue holds true for coffee, rice, and countless other items produced in Nicaragua and Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

As I passed by more than a dozen huge chicken farm style structures in Nicaragua, I asked what it was and I learn that is where Hathaway Shirts ended up…along with Under Armor, Levis, Wrangler, Rawling and several others. The clothing is manufactured in Nicaragua and shipped to the USA. The average Nicaragua makes about $800 Cordoba per week equivalent to $40 US. Hardly seems fair when you see the jeans in the store for $50-$75 and Under Armor can run you $80 for a pair of leggings, you have to wonder who is pocketing that difference…

We are faced with a few huge dilemmas now, we have too much stuff and we are not able to keep us with its over production as there is still not enough jobs and free trade is just not free…Everyone is paying a hefty fee for it. If the United States doesn't get it's act together quickly we just may find ourselves the third world country.

It is time to scale back and get back to the basics. Almost scrapping all things big and returning to small development strategies. Buying from your local farmer only, buying a car in your city, working in your city, studying in your city…keeping it all real local…and slowly spread our wings cautiously and with less dependents this time. Reality is we cannot support 2/3 of our population on the backs of the 1/3 of the population that actually has a job…

Then comes in the problem with all the stuff…The junk, the trash, the waste…what are we doing with it what is it doing to our lakes, rivers, streams, drinking water, and children’s, children’s future…Yes we need to clean up our acts. The throw-away society needs to be forced to recycle, forced to not buy a new tv’s every time one comes out or a new exbox, computer, ipad, or iphone. These things are filling our landfills and killing our earth along, side the Coke bottles, McDonalds fry box and Dunkin Donuts styrofoam cup…

As Told By Jules: Journeys in Central America and beyond


Anissa said...

you will be glad to know I do not drink coffee or anything from a fast food place :0 I gave up soda months ago and Will begetting a brita pitcher soon so I can filter my tap water ...and will be gtting Ry a reusable water bottle for work so he can stop buying the indiviual ones I am tired of the clutter until he take them to recycle them ... why recycle when we can eliminate the waste to begin with :)

Jules said...

Anissa!! I have been waiting to hear from you :) I knew you would be on board with all this waste no more ness! Tell Ry he can reuse those same plastic bottles instead of buying another one too. If you have them wash them fill them and freeze them the make great ice pack and a cold drink...eventually they will have to be returned or recycled but it is a great way to get more use out of them...I hope you get a chance to check out my last 2 posts too it's all about The Panama School:)