Julia Bridgforth Design


Charcoal and Caitlyn Jenner


Dear world, I am a silly little earthling with no real concept of time or space or the layers and dimensions that fold into this universe. I will easily admit that. In fact; because of my lack of understanding, I am currently on hour 16 of 21 in the wait to board a plane to Cape Town, South Africa for a casual weekend trip. That is like saying I am going to L.A. for the weekend when you live in Sewanee, TN. I will now continue a delusional, half awake rant because I need to occupy my time. I blame Trevor Noah, and by extention my mother for this trip. If she hadn't told me to read his book Born A Crime, I would not have been so intrigued by the nation of South Africa and its historical context. It is a messed up thing that happened in that nation. Apartheid and the Holocaust are two atrocities that we learned about in high school, although a great deal more assigned reading was about the Holocaust and the only required learning done about African genocides was a screening of Hotel Rwanda in the 9th grade. Which leads to me say that I will also easily admit that not only do I not know how to solve social and environmental problems facing our world, but I am often ignorant of all the social and environmental problems that need solving. 

For instance, one of my good friends that I have come to love while in Tanzania is a major advocate of not just gay or women's rights, but transgender and genderless people's rights. And until discussing the problems facing these communities, I never pictured it as a real problem. Yes, I read articles about the bathroom policy debate but the biggest deal to me about Caitlyn Jenner was that she purposefully spelt her name with a C instead of a K. I don't know why that affected me more than the whole sex change bit... minds work in funny ways. Anyways, what I am trying to say is that with every problem, there are ten to one million sub-problems that branch from it, making the mess sticky and complicated. I couldn't possibly believe that there was something wrong with being a badass feminist, but apparently Chimamanda Ngozi, author of Americanah, is very problematic for the trans community. Who would have thunk!

Additionally, you can easily look across the deforested Tanzanian landscape and tell villagers to stop chopping down their trees for charcoal. But then mothers can not cook for their children, mothers who now are legally, under a newly passed Tanzanian law, unable to return to school to get an education about why cutting down trees is not safi sana. Then maybe foreign based NGOs can give gas stoves to villages for the uneducated mothers to cook with? That opens the debate about an unhealthy giving/receiving relationship that keeps the poorer nation reliant on foreign help, and therefore unable to find empowerment. But I wanna help!! Ughhhh. Everything is so frustrating!

How can I begin to prioritize anything in this problem-dense world? How do I even know where to stand on issues where it is so easy to see both sides of the fight? I have no earthly idea! I know what I think is important: keeping public lands and fighting for renewable energy. I know that the current government does not give a shit about either of those things. But, luckily businesses do. Outdoor brands like Patagonia and REI are front-lining a petition movement to keep public lands places to gallivant without outlet malls impeding your view of a magnificent waterfall. And even Exxon and Volvo are denouncing coal and gas for renewable energy substitutes. Cool, my problems seem to have some solutions! Not all is lost. But while I am in a nation, interviewing women who gave birth to their first children at age 12, to their 40 year old husband... I can't help but think my priorities are privileged. But the environment is not just for white college students wearing chacos. Back to my charcoal example, it reflects social problems as well. While trees are chopped down, mother have to go further and further to retrieve charcoal, creating extra burden on her and he family. When farmers grow corn in a dry climate, it all shrivels up from the increasingly hectic weather patterns. Therefore, families stop putting aside money for school uniforms and hospital bills so that they can buy the increasing amounts of processed foods appearing in village shops which creates a new kind of malnourished diet and affects the national health. The decline in fish yields on Lake Tanganyika is a combination of overfishing and the warming climate, and therefore livelihoods that rely on fishing are crumbling around the lake.  

I am unsure if anything I have said above makes any sense. What I wanted it to all wrap up to is this: 

Yes, the world is filled with problems and they often seem to be opposing and it may look as though no problems will ever be solved and more problems are connected than it may initially seem. That means two things: while planning to fix a problem, the solution must be looked at from multiple angles to ensure it is not actually just making a problem worse. Inversely, when solving for a problem, there is often a way to hit two birds with one stone, since things are so deeply intertwined. 

Julia Bridgforth