rice, beans, and no tv.

17 12 2009

Bruce, Area Director for the Big Sky region, has this to say about challenge week as he commits to a diet of rice and beans and a week without television:

“Life is not perfect, not at anytime, not for any of us. I have a few things I could complain about (and occasionally do) in day four of rice and beans. The food is bland. It is difficult to cook. Beans for breakfast are a little unappetizing. Rice as a midnight snack does not hit the spot.  The unclaimed cupcake in the kitchen has been calling my name since Monday. My effort this week has been to resist the temptation for personal navel gazing and to put aside the distractions and discomfort of rice and beans to focus on something bigger than my own belly.

When the idea of a staff challenge first emerged, I began looking for some eye grabbing statistic that I could use to draw attention to something I care about. A statistic that I could also create a challenge around. That night I went to see Al Gore speak and got my factoid. The average American watches 5 hours of television a day. Let me be clear, I like television (collective gasp from the JVC world). West Wing – brilliant. Simpsons – genius. NFL –riveting. This blog entry is not a platform of righteous indignation.  Righteous indignation, while satisfying, is rarely helpful.

This statistic got me thinking about opportunity costs. When you spend $5 on bread you don’t just spend $5. You lose the opportunity to spend that money on anything else. In other words, you can no longer spend that money on bacon, oranges, or gummy bears (getting hungry here). So, to bring this back to the point, when we spend 5 hours a day on television we lose the opportunity to spend that time doing anything else. This week I decided to spend just five hours doing something else.

The reason this factoid caught my attention so much is that it came in the midst of a presentation on climate change. The solution to global warming could launch a new green economy lifting millions of people and dozens of countries out of poverty while simultaneously preserving rainforests, wetlands, and beautiful species. The lack of a solution will likely lead to millions of refugees, a lack of clean drinking water, species extinctions, crop failures, wars for limited resources. And I have failed to write a personal letter to my elected officials expressing my opinion since my JV year.  I have however watched the movie ‘Dumb and Dumber’ twice.

As I write, politicians from around the world are in Copenhagen haggling over a global response. One of the major obstacles to action is that the United States Senate has failed to take action. So this week I put ‘Love Actually’ back on the shelf and I took out my pen. Far more important that any kind of short term personal pain I experienced this week is the long term social power that I have flexed.

In conclusion, my personal reflection is twofold. First, never declare any kind of food challenge during holiday cookie season. And second, look beyond the immediate need for comfort to see the long term opportunities.”

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