Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog action day: Poverty

October 15, 2008. Today is blog action day and, although the theme is not directly related to running (my blog topic), I want to be part of the action. I will be quick as today is also work day...

Here are two topics I would like to quickly address related to this overwhelming issue of poverty.

1. Fund raising for a humanitarian project in Ethiopia

Our son Alex, 14, has setup a chapter of the United Nations Association of the USA at his high school in Cupertino. He is the co-President and has been joined by 50 other students including Max. Their goal is to fill in a container with supplies and deliver them to a village their are in touch with in Ethiopia in July 2009. Our garage is full of boxes with used school books, clothes, toys and educational games.
They are organizing a fund raising event on Sunday November 2nd, in Cupertino. In addition to leading the group, and working hard on the school curriculum, Alex is doing real business life jobs: public relations including getting in touch with local officials and other humanitarian organizations, strategic marketing (business plan), operation marketing (flyers, mail blast), accounting, purchasing (negotiation with sponsors and vendors), operation management (planning, staffing, human resources), etc. And that is on top of activities he has with the other clubs he belongs to (Red Cross, National Honnor Society), having served on Cupertino's Teen Commission over the past two years and being his class' President and Prince...

You can help this project in many ways:
  1. Come at the gala and enjoy group performances from 4 continents, delicious desserts, drinks ($50 tickets on sale now),
  2. If you cannot join us on 11/2, send a check or contact Alex for a pledge (alex _at_ cupertinouna _dot_ org),
  3. Spread the word by sharing this invitation or the URL to this post with your friends and colleagues.
This is really a project to help a poor community in Ethopia in a very sustainable manner, with supplies which will help a young generation of Ethopian getting a good education. A project to fight poverty, actively and beautifully. Thank you in advance for your support in addressing poverty this way!

By the way, Ethiopians are great runners so here is a connection with my blog! Our son Max, the cross-country runner, is excited to visit this village and hope to learn some running tips from locals before his Senior XC season. I will be happy to share what he gets...

2. What would you miss the most?

When thinking of poverty, we are invited to wonder what we would miss the most if we were to lose all we have. Money, freedom of speech or religion, comfort, notoriety, quality of life, food, work, music, love, car, ...? We have so much, the list is much longer than that and it seems even indecent to keep going when we know than billions of people live, or survive, with less than $1 a day.
I belong to a generation which did not experience major privations and priorities are difficult to set right in such a context. Looking at all the options, there is one thing which I find the most important though: water. As a runner, I rediscovered the benefit of drinking water for our body and health. At times, I even got a sense of what it would feel not having enough water when running out of it on long runs (e.g. my Western States training run at Quicksilver at the end of May). Of course you can argue that I could simply stay home and will not be thirsty, but we do need water, whatever activity we do. Life without water would be like living on planet Mars, we would just die. I feel so lucky to be on Earth, on the Blue Planet, a wonder! Here I am enjoying drinkable water straight from the glaciers, on the UTMB (Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc) course in July 2007:
When I think that we take showers with drinkable water, we water our backyards with drinkable water, we wash our cars with drinkable water, we flush toilets with drinkable water, I imagine that our grankids will think that we were not thinking straight. This is pure non-sustainable development. Of course we recycle water but we waste so much and pollute so much in doing so, when we would need to do so little if we had put the right systems in place.

As I'm preparing a business presentation for next week I got into this eye-opening ad in the book "Presentation Zen" (by Garr Reynolds). Garr is highlighting the quality of Sangeeta Kumar and you can see other of his compelling art work at
Unfortunately, this particular one did not display well on my screen so let me retype the message:

5,110 gallons of water for 1 year of showers
2,464 gallons of water for 1 pound of beef
And the underlying message says: Water | Showers vs. Eating Beef

Yikes, we are really crazy, aren't we? I'm not vegetarian yet, but thankfully I rarely eat beef. And I will eat even less knowing this fact and impact on water consumption.
Last week I was speaking in a workshop on sustainability in San Francisco and it felt great to share on my company's experience in getting greener as well as greening others thanks to our Supply Chain optimization solutions. It was also a great opportunity to remind all of us that sustainable development is all about appreciating how things are connected and inter-dependent and that we have to care of others in our global development, with equity. So we do not all fall into poverty...


Unknown said...

I like the post Jean. Global issues like poverty and sustainability always need to be taken into consideration with how we live and act.

Thanks for the info.


Peter Lubbers said...

A great post indeed.
You should be really proud of your son Alex. Although I can't make it to Cupertino, I'd be happy to pledge some money for his great initiative (will send a mail).

It's great that the kids will travel to Ethiopia themselves to see things first hand. That will be a memorable experience!

Related to water, I could not agree more. Check out the Blue Planet Challenge on my blog--it's a 30-mile run to raise money to provide water to Tanzania.

There are some great presentations (movies and slide shows with lots of stunning facts) on the Blue Planet site that might be useful for your presentation.


Jean Pommier said...

Indeed, Peter, I should have mentioned your great initiative with Blue Planet Challenge.

A great way to share some of your treasured water of Lake Tahoe!


Anonymous said...

Grand témoignage en ce 17 Octobre, déclaré par l'ONU, en 1992, Journée Mondiale du Refus de la Misère.