Seek Justice: Live Simply
How many different uses for bamboo can you come up with? Go ahead! I’m being completely serious. My list is currently upwards of twenty and still rising. You may be wondering what the resourcefulness of bamboo has to do with Dressember, but spending the weekend before Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year, in a rural Lahu village in Thailand made the relationship strikingly clear to me.
The Lahu people are one of many hill tribe groups in Southeast Asia. Through my semester abroad program in Northern Thailand, GO ED., we had the privilege of spending three nights in a nearby village learning about cultural art forms, listening to the stories of those who live there, experiencing nature and life the way they do, and mostly just receiving wisdom. This included activities, some which stretched me far out of my comfort zone in the best of ways, such as basket weaving, jungle trekking, New Year’s dancing, and early morning rising.
So back to how my question about bamboo is relevant to us as Dressember advocates who care about seeing justice and dignity achieved and sustained in our world? As we prepared for our hike through the jungle with our newfound friends, we quickly noticed that they hadn’t packed much more than their machetes and a bottle of clean drinking water. Knowing that we were going to be gone on this trek for several hours, including a planned stop for lunch, this at first seemed strange to our western-accustomed group. While we would have packed hiking poles and protein bars aplenty, they went a much lighter route.
The first stop was for bananas. As we came up the first hill, we heard the whack of the machete. This banana shoot was ready for enjoyment. Leaving with a potassium-packed snack that we didn’t even have to pack, a longing began stirring up in me to be able to use my resources and environment in this way. But that was only the beginning. Unbeknown to me, they had taken the flower at the end of the banana bunch with them to use for our lunch later.
Not accustomed to the terrain, we began to struggle in an environment so familiar to our Lahu companions. Whack with the machete once more, and each of us suddenly had a custom-made bamboo hiking stick. Now came that “out of my comfort zone” moment I mentioned earlier. Because what they wielded next from the bamboo was not of bamboo itself, but the little bamboo worms or “grub” inside the stalk. As I watched the braver of my friends step out and eat a live bug, my more skeptical self was squirming like those worms. Our Lahu friends fried them up for us later (They tasted like french fries). I had again experienced how the Lahu people made use of a viable protein source that required little input, feeding, or the agricultural industry.
We eventually got past the bamboo worms to lunch, and the machetes didn’t stop whacking away. Within minutes we had fresh bamboo drinking cups, spoons, tea kettles, serving dishes, and more surrounding us. We were having a lunch in the jungle, provided mainly by the jungle itself. And those banana flowers they saved contributed to one of the best soups I have ever tasted. On the way out, our guide stopped to make some quick bamboo ties to repair the roof of his home. Bamboo turned out to be a truly versatile material. Hopefully, now you have a few more uses to add to your list.
Comparing this experience to a few days later seeing constant notifications for everything from Black Friday to Cyber Monday was an overwhelming contrast. It’s almost as if our society has been tricked into believing we are helpless without and reliant on a myriad of things and single-use gadgets, while others, especially those who make those gadgets are repetitively exploited through the process.
I’m not saying that shopping, buying gifts, or participating in major sales is inherently bad. I’m also not saying that DIYing all of our products out of bamboo is the answer either (though it’s not a bad idea, if only it was equally accessible in all climates). I am simply suggesting that we don’t have to live with the mindset that we need more. One can attempt to live simply right where they are by looking for ethical and lifetime products, contemplating the things they don’t need in their lives, giving experiences instead of things, supporting businesses that empower instead of exploit, and so many other practices that many of you are already implementing into your lives out of your hearts for justice. I choose to live simply so others can simply live, but also so we can all live life a little more fully.
About the Author
Reagan Swier enjoys fashion, food, travel, writing, and more. She believes that all of those passions (and your passions too!) can be used to advocate for social justice and create a better world for future generations. Currently, she is a Junior at a small university in Oregon, where she helps lead her school’s IJM (International Justice Mission) chapter. She enjoys the creative scene of the Portland area, which inspires her writing and feeds her passion for social entrepreneurship.