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Viewpoint: Commit to reducing waste

In Sanskrit, “darshan” means “vision.” How befitting this is, as Dashan Karwat, a Rackham third year Ph.D. student in the aerospace engineering program has devoted one year of his life producing little to no waste, including recyclables. Karwat began this lifestyle metamorphosis on March 29 after realizing how wasteful his lifestyle was. Darshan, a humble and focused individual, is not looking to gain notoriety through his pursuits. Karwat was born in New Jersey, but his family originates from India. He is currently studying “the environmental impact of alternative fuels in aviation through experimental combustion studies, and regulatory policy for air pollutants,” according to a Rackham student spotlight.

His commitment is rooted in his passion for creating a more sustainable environment. He has produced between one and two pounds of waste in the past six months, including recycling products. The average person creates 821 lbs of waste in the same amount of time. His humble experience is quietly chronicled through his online blog, entitled “Minimizing Entropy,” enabling many to follow and support him on his daily pursuits. His minimalistic approach to life is “refusal,” he simply rejects the idea of becoming a part of the waste problem that is negatively affecting life around us.

Living in Ann Arbor, many of us choose to support the local community by buying our groceries from the farmers market and skipping food packaging, which amounts a large portion of the waste we create each year. Though many people opt to recycle packaging, and it does prove to be the lesser of two evils, recycling still generates excess waste.

Committing to limit this waste altogether would be the better option. Karwat was recently quoted in an Oct. 10 AnnArbor.com article saying “recycling is something people do to feel good about consumption. Rather than simply buy less or use what you have, you can feel that you’re doing your part when you recycle.” He is absolutely right. Karwat describes his experience as simply a change in consciousness. The more conscientious people are of their individual choices, the more they can impact the world around them.

I am an ardent practitioner of yoga. Yoga teaches Ujai Breath, a sort of “ocean-like” sound, bringing a sense of awareness and a burning focus. When I find myself in challenging situations, I focus on my breath, utilizing a new sense consciousness of a traditionally involuntary practice, breathing. Though it takes practice, it is possible to bring awareness to even the most involuntary practices, like breathing — and waste.

Waste is automatic, involuntary, something that few of us have reflected upon. We have always chucked things into the garbage, never daring to think how it may be affecting our Earth. Filling up landfills and polluting our air, we can no longer ignore the detrimental effects. However, if you employ a new sense of consciousness, you can reverse this vicious cycle. Though most of us aren’t as extreme, and will not commit to producing no waste in the next year, we can do small things to reduce our consumption and minimize our guilt.

Investing in a metal coffee mug or glass water bottle is a good first step to reduce the hundreds of paper cups, plastic bottles, lids and insulators we students rely on each day. In addition, many local coffee places will discount your total as an incentive for green living. Even the smallest of changes, like dishtowels instead of paper towels and bringing your own bags to the market, can be beneficial. We can be the generation to turn the tables on the lazy practices of waste. The more conscious we are, the more successful we will be in our everyday efforts. Karwat even carries his own set of silverware to restaurants. Make a commitment and stick to it. Live intentionally by challenging yourself to make one environmentally friendly decision a day and renew a sense of focus back to a thoughtless ritual, waste.

Adrianna Bojrab is an LSA junior.

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Viewpoint: Save Darfur? Yes.

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In his column Thursday, Ibrahim Kakwan criticized groups advocating action in Darfur for not recognizing the complexity of the issue and asked whether we should be getting involved (Save Darfur?, 11/13/2008). There is one simple answer to his question: yes.

Illustration by Rose Jaffe

As Kakwan wrote, the genocide in Darfur is a complicated situation to understand, to say the least. Because of the crisis’s dynamics it’s also easy for information to become convoluted. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, so we are here to set the facts straight.

In Darfur, more than 2.5 million people have been displaced — forced to flee their homes. More than 400,000 people are dead. For more than 20 years between 1983 and 2005, a civil war raged between north and south Sudan. Darfur, the western part of Sudan, was left out of the 2002 peace negotiations that ended the war. A competition for resources and government representation ensued, leading to escalated violence in the Darfur region.

The Sudanese government is responsible for the genocide. It funds the Janjaweed, a rogue militia, and provides the group with weapons, vehicles and helicopters to attack Darfurians. The Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, has stalled peace negotiations and refuses to make any permanent decisions regarding the conflict. For example, he has repeatedly declared unilateral cease fires without implementation or even negotiations with opposing factions. Humanitarian aid groups have been forced to pull out of the region because of continual targeting by the Janjaweed.

The Sudanese government is also to blame for allowing attacks on innocent civilians. In fact, the International Criminal Court is currently considering charging al-Bashir with 10 counts of intents to commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. A warrant stands for his arrest.

We cannot do enough to capture and bring the world’s attention to the emergencies in Darfur. We’ve recognized and called the crisis what it is: genocide — the systematic destruction of a specific group of people. Together, as members of the human family, we recognize that the terrorist regime of Khartoum has and continues to commit crimes against humanity and genocidal acts. This is an international consensus.

Yet, little has happened, and the killings have continued years later. The ICC has investigated and proven that Janjaweed militias are tools of the Sudanese government and that the regime in Khartoum is attempting to obliterate the people of Darfur.

There are few Darfur activists who claim the Sudanese Peoples’ Liberation Army is innocent. Though fighting on behalf of an oppressed people — the Darfurians — it, too, has engaged in war crimes. Violence is a by-product of violence, no matter how idealistic we pretend to be. The nation of Sudan has a long and twisted history of civil wars in response to underrepresentation, overexploitation or simple neglect at the hands of the government.

More than 250 weeks of genocide have passed, and we, as the international community, have yet to come together on behalf of Darfur. We have argued semantics and logistics at length, failing to put the welfare of the people first.

The U.N. Security Council needs to enforce its resolutions regarding the deployment of 26,000 peacekeeping troops in Darfur. However, as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, China has repeatedly blocked these resolutions time and time again because of its relationship with the Sudanese government and its interest in Sudanese oil. China has vetoed all attempts to provide relief on the ground in Darfur.

Despite the tremendous challenges that we face, it is essential that our collective journey continue because we cannot rest until the darkest atrocities are brought to light. Ending genocide must be a global priority.

So today give the people of Darfur your voice, thoughts and prayers. They have been neglected and persecuted by the very government that should be fighting on their behalf. In the time it has taken you to read this article, more civilians have been forced to flee their homes. A woman has been raped. An orphaned child has given up hope. The question is not if we should save Darfur. The question is how soon can we do it before it’s too late.

Kate Marten is a School of Nursing sophomore. She is a member of the University’s chapter of STAND: A Student Anti-Genocide Coalition.

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