Staying strong

Ok, I have an hour and twenty seconds left to post something while it’s still Friday. I gotta hurry.

(It’s Sunday now. I’m disappointed at myself)

Usually, I do this while at school, because my philosophy teacher always misses her 80 mins long class on Fridays, thus leaving us with a free hour with nothing to do. So, as my inspiration usually rises at school, I take the chance to go to the library, and ask for a computer to write something quickly.

But, today this friday, I didn’t have any school. Today This Friday was a free day for secondary and university students, as it is was ‘Students’ Day’ -yes, the same day when Spring starts over here.
It’s a pretty big deal for us students of Argentina.

We usually meet up and go to a park, as it’s generally a beautiful day, and spend the day there. We have a little picnic, and then spend the afternoon eating sweets, drinking mate, chatting about whatever, and playing voleyball, or football (what some of you, northamerican readers, sometimes call ‘soccer’. I’m not calling it like that, though, cause it’s football here. Well, actually, it’s futbol, but let’s leave it at that). Almost every group of students in Buenos Aires, and I think in the rest of Argentina happens the same, takes the opportunity to have a nice day out.

This Friday, though, some students couldn’t spend the day outside, in a park. Some students had to spend their students’ day indoors, at school; because, since the beginning of the week, around 20 schools in Buenos Aires have been ‘taken’ by their students, as a protest against this city’s government’s decitions in education.

‘Taking’ one’s school isn’t something pretty, nor funny. It’s a forcefull action full with sacrifice and times of true sorrow. Sleeping on the cold floor, eating crappy food bought with some money from every student there, making sure trouble or disturbs don’t rise up between the students, or the outsiders, taking on the attacks from the media… That’s not something a teen should be going through.
And yet, these students are brave enough to step up, after months of indiference from the city’s government, to take responsability for their own public, free, and dignifying education.

This isn’t a post to talk about what the problem is, but to honour these guys. I’ve been through all that, and I know how much it can hurt. Stay strong. Last time, this was the only way to make people actually listen to us. It’s sad that we had to come to this again, but worry not, as now the city will know.

Fuerza, y no abandonen, que la cosa sigue.

Thanks for reading.

-Mila.

 

Conclusions on my career choice

It’s funny. I’ve been struggling with that tedious decision of ‘what to study after high school’ for two years now, complaining that it was inhuman to make a teen choose what he or she wanted to do for the rest of her/his life at such a young age, telling myself I didn’t need to worry about that, and worrying still, and going from Meteorology to History, going through Psicology and even Enology in the middle.

And now that I’ve taken a ‘final decision’, if that even exists, everything seems so normal, so natural. It almost feels as if every minute, every second, I’ve spent thinking about this subject, was there for a reason from the very beginning.

Now, when people ask me, I can proudly say ‘yes, I’m studying Politics next year’, and feel completely used to that choice.

Deciding an' stuff

I still feel I was forced to face some stuff I wasn’t supposed to at my age, and that I went deeper in analysing myself than I was intended to all along. But I’m still happy about all this.

But, if you ask me how I got to the conclusion that Politics was the best option for me, I wont say anything about having good job opportunities, or it being interesting to study. All my options were like that.

No. For me, the question that made me get to this decision was the following:

In what field of study and work can I rest assured I will NEVER get bored?

As naturally as breathing, the answer came to me: Politics.

And thus, in a few weeks, I’m gonna go sign up for Buenos Aires’ University, to start next year.

And, even though this took me long to reflect over, I still know this isn’t my final decision. I can still change my mind as many times as I want to, and study something else.

There’s no need to worry so much.

I’m writing this, partly because I’m bored at school cause the teacher is absent, and partly because I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there still struggling with this tremendous decision.

Relax. Take e-ea-sy.

You can do it. Just let it flow.

Thanks for reading,

-Mila.

Transgenics and all that jazz II

This is an answer to Nurulthecook’s reply on my previous post about transgenics. I decided to make it into a post, mostly because it was too long, and also because this gives me the chance to clarify some stuff I couldn’t talk about in the previous one. Her opinion was this:

I’m currently against! So many reasons. I love my food natural. Preferably without chemicals fertilizer or pesticides. I don’t swear by organic. Because organic may start off meaning well, but in the end it has to go through a long chain of companies meaning people. And unfortunately for some people money means more than ethics. So sticking an organic label on normal non organic produce is very easy-and possible to do by the distributor (to name just one). This was the personal experience of a late friend of mine.

Now when it comes to genetically altered food-(I can see you taking apart all my arguments already;-)) I doubt that the companies that supply the seeds will ever tell you about any problems health or environment related. I don’t trust corporations. Most only want to suck the people dry of every last ounce of blood they have-only to come back and sell you your blood back at five times the price.

The genetic alteration can, I think pass onto people. Maybe it would have adverse affects in the future. But then most of the fruit in the west has been modified or altered genetically already (and many taste crap!). But we still eat it. There are a lot of sick people in the western hemisphere of the world. And food is just one cause of this.

There is enough food in the world to feed everyone. It’s just in the wrong place at the wrong time. And now with the speculation on food in the financial markets and the drive to make biofuel from food we eat……the prices will go up again. And the poorest in the world will suffer.

Maybe I’m wrong. I just have this idea of ALL of the worlds seeds eventually becoming corporately owned. And the diversity of certain edible plants has already dwindled to just a few. So when nature makes it’s call on the plants-the fittest and strongest will survive. If there are only a few varieties-then the odds are against that plant surviving.

This is becoming a post…..

In the modern world, currently globalized, and with vestiges of the post-fordism ways for producing, there is no ‘natural food’. Every veggie, fruit, or cereal you’ve had in the last, say, 20 years, has been modified from it’s original self by humans in one way or another. This isn’t something necessarily bad, though.

Take corn, for example: an oleaginous plant original from the American continent. When Europeans got here for the first time, this cultive was one of the most important for the originary people from here (Mexican food now-a-days is a living culinary example to this). But the plant was different then: it had many fewer seeds when it reached maturity. And I’m talking about having between 8 to 16! Think of the present corn plant, and you see that’s just crazy.
When Europeans discovered how useful this plant was, they started cultivating it too. But, what they did was something different as well. They started crossing for reproduction only those plants with more than 10 seeds, for example. After a few years, they had only plants with more than 10 seeds, so they started crossing between plants with more than 15. This went on until, at some point, every corn plant cultivated everywhere was like the one we use today.
That, Nuru, was the way the ‘genetic modification’ from that time worked.

Apart from this, no one cultivates anything for mass-production without using either lots of chemicals, or either transgenic seeds. That, unless you cultivate ‘organics’.

Now, let’s analyze every one of these options, shall we?

Chemicals, such as plaguicides, fertilizers, an the likes.
When you are an agropecuary investor, or producer, your cultives are bound to face a lot of dangers -but you can’t allow any of those to affect your production, or else, you lose money, and producing becomes unprofitable. In order to make sure none of the many variants of nature leave producers without their money, they’ve developed many helpers.

Fertilizers replenish the soil’s natural nutrients and minerals, the ones it looses when cultivating the same plant various times. If a producer performs mono-cultives (meaning, he produces one ONE kind of plant), then the soil could become unuseful and spoiled, and cultivating there wouldn’t be profitable. Do you imagine what would happen if, in every piece of land we cultivate in, the soil would become like that after a few years? We couldn’t reach the global production we have now-a-days, making hunger a MUCH bigger problem. Fertilizers are there, in part, because of this. Of course, they also give plant a bust, but what’s really important about them is their enviromental role.

Pesticides, on the other side, are there to fight one big problem nature throws at us, and that has caused many loses during the centuries. Im talking about plagues. There’s not much depth into them other than they kill bugs and plants that ruin a cultive.
The problem there seems to be with this, is that they can be quite toxic. That is, if not used properly. Every land owner that buys a pesticide to use, is aware of the instructions, because they come with the package: it has to be diluted in a certain quantity of water, for it to harm the pests, but not the humans.
And I mean it, people! Hard and meticulous studies have been performed on every pesticide there is, and they have been proven not to be toxic when used properly. The problem is, there isn’t really a normative or regulation on it’s use. Labs just trust their clients to do the right thing, for all I know, which might not be very efficient, as we all know.

All in all, chemicals have been a big part of what we call ‘the green revolution’, which proved that a piece of land’s productivity isn’t decided merely on it’s extension, but on the technical advances that we can use in it.

Transgenics. I’ve already explained quite a lot about them, but I guess I could keep on writing for a while longer.
Transgenics are usually made by taking one particular gen from a certain plant, which gives this plant a certain characteristic that makes it good against extreme temperatures, or a certain plague, or makes it use less nutrients from the soil, or something else, and to insert it in the genetic code of the plant we want to cultivate in mass.
That’s all there is to it.

Soy field

Soy field. A normal view in Argentina’s countryside.

Now, the process takes a long, long time. First, scientists need to find that specific plant with that specific characteristic they’re looking for. After that, they have to decode their DNA. Now comes the first experimental stage, which is adding or subtracting to that DNA chain until they find that particular gen that gives this plant that particular characteristic. This could take YEARS.
Now, let’s say they find it, and now they’re ready to insert it in, for example, a soy bean! Or are they?
The second experimental part of this process is trying to add this gen to this soy’s DNA sequence. This could work or not, they don’t really know before trying. After adding it to every possible position in the chain, let’s say they find the position that actually works with the soy bean. Ok, so now, they need to actually make the seed containing that modified DNA chain.
This, after many tries, leaves you with some growing soy, that you have to immediately start cloning. Why? Well, because you need many exactly identical samples of this plant, because if it breeds with another one, then you lost years of work!
So the soy plants start growing, and they make sure they breed between each other. After many years of hard work, you have the first actually cultivable seeds of the modified soy bean! Now, you can sell it to…! No, actually you can’t, because you need to go through many testes and applications, that, here, usually take between 3 and 8 years, for it to be approved to be commercialized.

And that’s, pretty much, how transgenic seeds are accomplished! Though it’s actually much harder and complicated than that!

What many people say about transgenics, is that they’re afraid that, as they are genetically modified, they will mutate their DNA as well.
Now let me ask you a question: when you eat meat, do you suddenly start becoming a cow? Or, when eating an ‘organic’ lettuce, do you feel like your skin becomes green, and you suddenly feel like doing photosynthesis?
The answer to those is ‘no’. And the answer is ‘no’, because we can’t actually ‘absorb’ the DNA of what we eat, much less to ‘add’ that non-absorbed DNA into our own. That just doesn’t make sense. So no, eating a transgenic plant wont make you into a monster or a plant. Not more than eating meat makes you into a cow.

Organics. When I hear someone bragging about how they ‘only eat organic food’, I can’t help but shamelessly laugh. What do you define as ‘organic’, really? A plant that wasn’t modified by men? I’m sorry to disappoint you, but as I explained in my introduction, we already modified most of what we cultivate from it’s original self already.
A plant that wasn’t cultivated with any chemicals? I would never eat something like that, because, if pesticides weren’t used on it, then that means that plant was exposed without any defense to any kind of bug or possibly toxic plant. Not very appealing, is it?
And not having consumed any fertilizer, means that the plant may or may not have had a disease during it’s growth, as it’s defenses weren’t reinforced. It also means that it may not have acquired every nutrient it needed, making it’s growth insufficient, and it’s nutritive value decrease.

An ‘organic’ plant isn’t healthier, greener, or better than the average one. It’s actually probably less safe than the average. Pay a lot of attention the next time someone talks about how they only eat organic, and try to guess if they have any idea of what they’re talking about.

Well, I don’t want to make this into a rant, so I think I’ll stop right here. My thanks to Nurulthecook for her answer in the previous post about transgenics, which gave me the drive this write this sequel. I always appreciate any opinion or doubt you have about the posts!
(Do check out Nurul’s blog, it’s pretty cool. Even for someone with the cooking skills of a rock, such as me).

Oh, by the way, I think I’ll start posting on Fridays periodically, and maybe add random posts around the week. But Fridays will be obligatory for me!
Well, thanks for reading, and see you next week.

-Mila.

An apology, and…

I have been absent for about a month now, and I wanted to apologize. Writing is something I just can’t force, and lately, I haven’t been really up for it.
I’ll try to have more of a schedule. Maybe mark a day a week when I’ll surely upload at least something, so this doesn’t happen again… I dont know yet.

Here’s today’s topic, though: youth’s vote in Argentina.

 

As you may not know, political rights in my country apply only to citizens, as it does in most parts of the world. This means that a person is only able to present him/herself for a public charge, or to vote, when he/she becomes a citizen. In Argentina’s case, when turning 18 years old. Here, voting is obligatory as estipulated in our Constitution.

In the last days, though, a specific subjtect has been very discussed over all kinds of media, and also between groups of people. Two senators from the actual government’s party have recently presented a law-in-the-making to allow teenagers to have the option to vote when they turn 16 years old. Not full political rights, then, but the chance to vote as an option, until they turn 18, when it becomes obligatory.
This has caused a pretty interesting reaction in the country. And I love interesting reactions.

The most repeated argument against it, is that ‘there are more important things to discuss other than this’. Of course, the government’s opposition did say the same when the national project for a netbook per student (Conectar Igualdad), the law regulating the taxes on soy beans exportation, and the media’s regulation law were proposed, among with many others. Actually, this is the most commonly used argument against practically anything the government does.
I wonder what are the things they find ‘truly important’ to discuss?

The second most commonly heard, is that ‘kids that age aren’t yet ready to vote. They don’t qualify. Now this, my friends, is a very dangerous concept. To be ‘qualified’ to vote.
You know, when you study my country’s history, there is a very special time that was maker of many brilliant minds: 1880. These people were called ‘the 80’s generation’. Among them were many now procers t the country.
These people had an ideal for that then young Argentina. They looked up to the USA’s political system, and to france’s ideologies and culture -yes, that seems to be a constant for argentinian thinkers and politicians until the WWI.
But, they were such intelligent people, they understood the common man was basically an idiot (in Sherlock’s words: ‘don’t take it the wrong way. Technically everyone is one’). So they wanted to restrinct the posibility to vote to only those who had attended/were attending university.

Do you imagine what it would be like if the only ones who could vote were college students? Exactly, that’s the exact opposite to ‘democracy’.

Democracy is meant to be the representation of the majority, while respecting the many minorities.

So, when these people now say 16-year-olds aren’t good enough to vote, what are they basing their arguments on? Is it based on their intelligence? Because I know many 16yearolds that are largely smarter than most adults (heck, I know many 12-year-olds smarter than them). Is it about their naivete? Then, is there a way to ‘calculate’ one’s naivete? A naive adult isn’t allowed to vote either?
Is it about life experience? Well, I’m 18, allowed to vote, and don’t really differ from a 16-year-old’s expertise in life, honestly.

Some senator has been repeating in front of every journalist she can find that ‘her biggest fear is that these kids are in any way manipulated by political parties’. Oh, now there we’re getting somewhere.

Remember that post about that 0800-something meant for kids and families to denounce any ‘political activity’ in schools?

Can you see the patron? Because I can. FEAR.

In the late years, the youth from this country has managed to become another political factor here. We ARE a political group, we stand for what we think is right, we manifest for it and against what we think isn’t, and we influence the course of decitions. We have managed to achieve this so-called power thanks to the effort of many more before us.
The only thing that was keeping us from being truly desicive in the political aspect of the country, was the fact that most of us couldn’t vote. Now this law is making that possible. This law will allow us to claim our rightfull place in the table where the country’s decitions are actually made.

On to the agreeing part of the discussion, we have sayings like ‘this is a great way to get teenagers interested in politics from their early ages’. Well, be carefull with that. I believe politics are a way to open one’s mind, and to know more about the world, to take a step forward for your ideals. But, at the same time, we can’t deny that politics has always been the highway for the economical interests to move their wealth. This is a double-edged sword, that can only be responsably wielded if this law comes along with more and better education on this field, concientization.

Also, let’s not forget that the present government has a lot of the youth’s support, so this also responds to THEIR interests.

People are still people.

Anyways, is with hard discussion like these that the politicians’ and media people’s true way of thinking come out, which is always fun to watch.

How does voting work in your countries? What do you think about this law?

Thanks for reading.

-Mila.