Speaker addresses human capacity to realize change

Bill Aal, of the nonprofit organization Seattle Globarl Justice, speaks about the global food crisis during a keynote speech for National Hunger Week, in the Gardner Auditorium April 7. - Matt Beaty /The Lumberjack

On April 7, in the W.A. Franke College of Business, Bill Aal, one of the founders of the Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ), gave a presentation on peak oil, climate change and the global food crisis, and how humans can address such issues.

Sanaa Bengholam, a senior political science and international affairs major, said she heard about Aal through Carol Thompson, a professor of political science. Thompson works with environmental organizations to help farmers build their own seed banks and seed trusts -- or catalog, store and protect many varieties of plants -- in southern Africa.

“We were attracted to Bill (Aal) because of his local and global ideas,” Bengholam said. “Usually, speakers tend to just talk about their knowledge, but we noticed he did a very good job at including the audience.”

During his presentation, Aal asked audience members to tell their neighbors about their heritage, culture and aspects of their family lives that could have contributed to their attitudes about hunger.

“There are lots of stories that we all have, and these things are excluded from the way we talk in work and in school,” Aal said. “It is part of what makes us human, bringing in real stories and doing things in the world.”

Aal focused on the human capacity to change issues in the world rather than relying on the world to change itself.

“People don’t trust themselves anymore,” Aal said. “This is about trusting intuition and talking about multicultural context and what is really going on in the world, being driven forward as opposed to backward.”

Aal discussed the 1999 World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Seattle. A large environmentalist movement participated in this protest against globalization. Aal said he does not believe in cutting off world trade, but rather slowing it down would be best for local communities to keep both the economy and the intake of local food stable.

“We need to attempt to address issues by making sure to buy coffee, tea and rice to support local farmers,” Aal said. “We need to attempt to bring justice into trade.”

Aal also discussed the production of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and how countries that refuse to receive GMOs from the United States are often shunned and looked at as starving their countries.

“When Bill Gates and (the) Rockefeller (family) provide money to Africa, they put no money into organic food but (only) into genetically modified food,” Aal said. “The idea that GMOs (are) a solution to our food problem is up for grabs.”

Betsy Goodman, a senior environmental studies major, said she thought Aal’s talk spurred student motivation in the community.

“There are small efforts in the community and a lot of organized events to support awareness,” Goodman said. “We’re very lucky to have this happen.”

Editor’s Note: Hunger Awareness Week was organized by the department of politics and international affairs, the Office of the Dean, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Women and Gender Studies program, the M.A. Sustainable Communities, the Ethnic Studies program, the department of sociology and social work, and the department of psychology.