Don’t throw that away!

The CBC news article, Starbucks pledges to donate 100% of unsold food, reported that Starbucks corporation on March 23, 2016 publicized plans to eliminate food waste and donate all of its unused food items from its U.S. stores to the needy within five years. Perishable items such as breakfast sandwiches, salads, and other ready-to-eat meal packages would be donated. The company said it will add up to five million meals in its first year, and more than 50 million free meals by 2021. They plan to use an agency called Food Donation Connection (FDC) to get the items to the food banks and homeless shelters. Since 2010, Starbucks has been collecting pastries at the company’s 7,600 stores after they can no longer be sold to customers, and working with FDC to get the pastries to people who need them.

Canadian Starbucks locations will not be included in the program, but a spokesperson told CBC News that Canadian Starbucks is watching closely. Food consultancy Value Chain Management International Inc. estimates that roughly $31 billion worth of food is wasted in Canada every year. According to a Starbucks spokesperson, “In Canada we currently have measures in place to donate unused food and are working to formalize the practices so that we can maximize our efforts in this market.”

I did some research and learned that there are other companies who donate unsold food. According to an article on AME Science, Tesco is a British multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer who plans to eradicate all its food waste by 2017. They’ve started several projects to achieve this goal. It has also started selling “wonky veg” boxes, to encourage consumers to buy imperfect foods. In a 14-store pilot programme the company provided the equivalent of 50,000 meals to less fortunate people.

oranges10a
from theguardian.com

According to figures published by Tesco 55,400 tonnes of food were thrown away at its stores and distribution centres across the country in 2015. This would be the equivalent of over 125,000,000 meals, assuming all the food were edible. Even if half of it is edible, that still brings a huge amount of meals. Another article by Salon reports Tesco’s initial report found the biggest losses were in bagged salad, two-thirds of which was being discarded either in-store or by customers; it was also wasting 40 percent of apples, a quarter of grapes and a fifth of bananas.

I was curious as to why grocery stores throw out so much food although it is only 10% of the total food wasted, whereas about 14% of all household food is wasted according to davidsuzuki.org. The site says over 30 percent of fruits and vegetables in North America don’t even make it onto store shelves because they’re not pretty enough for picky consumers. According to Business Insider, the reasons why stores waste is:

  • Most grocery stores assume that customers are more likely to buy produce if it’s from a fully stocked display.
  • Customers expect perfect produce. Retailers stock their produce according to that expectation.
  • Customers don’t understand what expiration dates, sell-by dates, use-by dates, or best-by dates mean. They assume that food is no longer good after these days. Instead, sell-by dates are guidelines for sellers to indicate peak freshness. Most foods are good long after the sell-by date. Consequently, most grocery stores pull the items from the shelves several days before the sell-by date.
  • Sometimes, product packaging gets damaged during shipping, causing supermarkets to toss products even though the food hasn’t been compromised. The assumption is that no consumer is going to buy it if a faulty one is right next to it.

So why don’t all stores donate the unsold food to charities. From what I can determine, the reason is businesses fear they will be held liable should the product donated later cause harm to the recipient. It’s Interesting to note that in 1996 U.S. President Bill Clinton passed the Good Samaritan Act to encourage companies to donate healthy food that would otherwise go to the waste dump. This law protects businesses from liability when they donate to a non-profit organization. To my knowledge Canada has no such law. The province of Ontario, however has such a law called the Donation of Food Act which was passed in 1994.

clapping-hands-transparent-b-g-mdKudos to the Starbucks and Tesco corporations. I’m quite sure my research is not thorough. I’m sure there are other companies out there so I applaud any of the companies I’ve missed who donate unsold food to charities.

On August 7, 2015 I wrote a post about the France National Assembly who voted unanimously to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food.  According to the article, France pass new law forbidding food waste, large grocery stores must donate edible food to charities and allow inedible food to be used for animal feed or compost.

I have since learned that Italy is set to become the second European country to pass legislation that will pressure supermarkets to stop throwing out food waste, and instead give it to those in need. (See Italy’s about to pass law). The soon to be Italian law is slightly different from the French law in that Italy’s legislation rewards companies for donating by reducing their rubbish tax. The more food companies donate, the bigger savings they’ll receive in taxes.

Thumbs upThumbs up to the European countries of Italy and France who are making efforts to waste less food and support less fortunate people. Kudos to the United States and to the province of Ontario for passing laws that protect companies who choose  to donate food instead of throwing it out. It is time for other provinces or Canada as a whole to do the same.

smileyMy research also showed me that there are many food rescue (also known as food recovery or food salvage) organizations in Canada and the United States. These organizations glean edible food from places such as restaurants, grocery stores, produce markets, or dining facilities and distribute it to emergency food programs. The food would otherwise go to waste. In Canada there are organizations such as Second Harvest and Forgotten Harvest. In the US there is Feeding America, Food Forward and many more. I salute those charity organizations who do the right thing.

British novelist and author of the Chronicles of Narnia, once said, “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” I am so grateful that there are people, organizations, companies and countries in this world that have integrity.

Political Bullying

I have always had an interest in politics. I taught social studies in high school for years and would passionately discuss politics with my students and give projects to them when election campaigns were on. I’ve even scrutineered once.  For those of you who don’t know what a scrutineer is, in the British and Canadian systems, a scrutineer is an official examiner of votes in an election. There was even a time when I would have seriously considered running for office. I used to think politicians were honourable people and individuals to be admired for their service. Now don’t get me wrong, there are still a few honourable people who are leaders. However, as I watch the politicking of our neighbours to the south, I begin to wonder if honourable and honest people enter politics anymore.

You’re probably wondering why I say such a thing. I was recently watching some of the analysis on CNN regarding the most recent primaries that are happening in the United States. One of the commentators was discussing the insults that were exchanged between Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, two candidates running for the Republican Party nomination for president. Here is an article about what I’m talking about –Us Election 2016. There were insults traded between the two candidates about misspelled tweets, wet trousers, wearing makeup and Trump ridiculing Marco Rubio for his love of drinking water.  Apparently, in a State of the Union response speech in 2013 while on national television Mr. Rubio paused for a sip of water. But what really got me were their exchanges about sweating.

Trump
From BBC.com

According to Business Insider, the exchange apparently happened backstage when they were debating one another. Mr. Rubio insinuated that Trump possibly “wet” himself. “He called me Mr. Meltdown,” Rubio went on to say, “Let me tell you, during one of the breaks — two of the breaks — he went backstage. He was having a meltdown. First he had this little makeup thing, applying makeup around his mustache, because he had one of those sweat mustaches. Then he asked for a full-length mirror. I don’t know why, because the podium goes up to here. Maybe he was making sure his pants weren’t wet. I don’t know.

Trump countered with, “He’s with a pile of makeup putting it on his face, I said Marco, easy with the makeup, you don’t need that much. You know the story with Marco. I watched Marco with this man [Christie]. Where Marco, he was right over here I asked him I said are you okay? He looked like he just came out of a swimming pool. He was a mess.” Anyway, I’m sure you get what I’m talking about.

The first question I have is, Why are they throwing insults when I’m sure the American people want to hear about solutions to the problems the country faces? Donald Trump’s campaign slogan is, “Make America Great Again.” A great slogan I might add. But I seldom hear him telling the American people how he intends to do that. What I typically hear is insults flying and Trump being a bully. The other Republican candidates don’t seem to be a whole lot better. Are these the best candidates that America has to offer, candidates throwing insults at one another? Granted, it might be entertaining, but really it’s bullying. No wonder our society has a bullying problem. When I vote, I vote for those candidates that reflect my values, but even more because they’ve explained what they will do to make their country better.

Canada is not immune to such antics. During the last 2015 Federal Election in Canada, the then reigning Conservative government placed ads in local newspapers and flyers, questioning whether Justin Trudeau, Canada’s current Prime Minister, shares their values. The ads tried to foster fear that a Liberal government would legalize marijuana, “making access easier for kids.” The ad warns there would be legal drug-injection sites in our neighbourhoods and that prostitution would be legalized, “putting brothels in our communities.” The Conservative Party attack ad finishes with, “Those aren’t our values either. Vote for your values.”  They were twisting the truth. Mr. Trudeau did make a campaign promise to legalize marijuana, but he never explicitly said he would legalize prostitution or drug injection sites. That was only Conservative fear mongering.

TrudeauOf course there was the long running television ads attacking Mr. Trudeau’s credibility saying, “He’s just not ready” to be prime minister. The Liberal Party of Canada is also guilty of attack ads. In 2006  then Liberal Party Leader Paul Martin approved a controversial ad suggesting the Tories would post armed soldiers on the streets of Canadian cities. During the last weeks of the campaign, the Liberals resorted to negative ads directed towards the Conservative party, attempting to depict its leader Stephen Harper as an extreme right-wing politician. The most controversial ad said, “Stephen Harper actually announced he wants to increase military presence in our cities. Canadian cities. Soldiers with guns. In our cities. In Canada.”

Chretien_AdHistorically, one that stands out for me was the 1993 Progressive Conservative Party attack on then Liberal leader Jean Chretien, who was elected as Prime Minister that year. The ad showed a picture (on left) of Mr. Chretien saying,”Is this a Prime Minister?” This ad was interpreted as mocking Chretien’s slight deformity and speech impediment that were leftover from a childhood case of Bell’s Palsy.  This is a condition where paralysis of the facial nerves occur, causing muscular weakness in one side of the face. To me, that was a “low blow.” That was “hitting below the belt.”

Why does politics have to be about attacking another’s character? Most people I have talked to express how repugnant this type of politicking is. I’m grateful that Canada’s present Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, did not run any attack ads during the 2015 election and does not resort to bullying to achieve his goals. In fact, in October of 2015 on CTV’s Canada AM Mr. Trudeau said,“I don’t believe in attack ads. I think they hurt your ability to govern and my capacity to stay positive and focused on our platform.” I say kudos to Canada’s Prime Minister. It is time to get back to what I call honourable politicking, where politicians put forth their platforms for making their country great. It’s time to bring honour and respect back to politics.  Time to give us politicians who have creative new ideas, who aren’t bullies, and who want to lead because they want to make a difference in this world. It is a sad state of affairs when the only potential leaders that step forward are bullies who attack their opponents. Enough already!

There is Hope

Evo Morales, an Indigenous Bolivian who has served as President of Bolivia since 2006, is quoted as saying, “Sooner or later, we will have to recognize that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.”  Mr. Morales is right!  We cannot continue to abuse Mother Earth without dire consequences.

According to The Watchers, a daily news service that relays information on global events, world evolution and transformation, there are many environmental catastrophes taking place on our planet. Here are some that I noted.

A state of emergency was declared over a large natural gas leak pouring high quantities of methane and other gases into a Los Angeles neighbourhood on January 6, 2016. Numerous residents reported health issues and thousands of people have been forced to evacuate the area. The leak of natural gas was first observed October 23, 2015, and is now the largest natural gas leak ever reported.

A flow of toxic mining waste, which spilled into a main river in the city of Mariana, Brazil on November 5, 2015 has traveled at least 500 km (310 miles) through the Rio Doce since the event. The disaster has been proclaimed as the country’s worst environmental catastrophe in history. At least 11 people were confirmed dead, 15 went missing and hundreds of homes were devastated.

bellandur-new-2
Bellandur Lake, India (dogonews.com)

Bellandur Lake, the largest lake in the city of Bangalore, India, is extremely polluted by a high amount of ammonia and phosphate. From the air, the 36 km (22 miles) wide lake visually appears as if snow is covering a mountain. In reality what looks like snow is a large, white foam covering the water surface, an unnatural phenomenon resulting from extremely toxic, untreated, chemical accumulations. The froth has risen to a height of one meter.

A dam at a waste pond on Mount Polley Mine of British Columbia, Canada, full of toxic heavy metals burst on August 4, 2014, releasing 10 million cubic meters of wastewater and 5 million cubic meters of toxic slurry into Hazeltine Creek, Quesnel Lake and Polley Lake.  Mining experts warn that the incident is the largest mining disaster in Canadian history, possibly even globally.

There are many, many more environmental catastrophes listed on the Watchers website, and I haven’t even mentioned the biggest one facing the planet, that is, climate change. Now it would be easy to get down and discouraged when reading this kind information, but as they say, “every cloud has a silver lining”. I still believe that the human spirit is strong and that we can correct our wrongs, even when it comes to the environment. So what is the silver lining you may wonder?

The silver lining is that we now have a tremendous opportunity  to develop new technologies, which in turn would create new industries and jobs as well as benefit our planet environmentally. So what might these technologies look like? The Greenbiz website lists 9 technologies to clean up the planet.   The livescience site lists 10 emerging environmental technologies. Some that caught my attention are:

We now have technologies to prevent CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Some of these makes the CO2 into something else that can be sold as products. Skyonic Corporation is building a commercial CO2 capture plant scheduled to begin operating this year which is expected to reduce 300,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year through a combination of direct capture from a cement plant and the making of commercial products, such as baking soda. This is a technology that could help to curb global warming.

Nuclear reactors are becoming safer. The technology for nuclear power has become so efficient that they now use the byproducts of conventional nuclear power production as fuel. The travel wave reactors, backed by Bill Gates, look to use depleted uranium to generate electricity, rather than leaving it to be stored or used in other applications, such as ammunition. This technology makes nuclear power plants much safer and solves the problem of nuclear waste. This could very well be an alternative to the polluting coal burning power plants.

glaciers-melting-600x407
From the Berkeley Blog

The United Nations have predicted that water supply shortages will affect billions of people by the middle of this century. Desalination, the removing the salt and minerals out of seawater, is one way to provide potable water in parts of the world where supplies are limited but it is expensive and uses a lot of energy. Scientists are working toward better processes where inexpensive fuels can heat and evaporate the water before running it through membranes with microscopic pores to increase efficiency. That gives hope for new fresh water sources as much of our fresh water supply in the form of glaciers is melting and ending up in our oceans.

Hydrogen fuel cell usage has been touted as a pollution-free alternative to using fossil fuels. These cells make water by combining hydrogen and oxygen and in the process they generate electricity. Most recently, scientists have come up with ways to power laptops and small devices with fuel cells, and some car companies are promising that soon we’ll be seeing cars that emit nothing but clean water. That is great news for our environment.

OTEC technologies convert the thermal energy contained in the oceans and turn it into electricity by using the temperature difference between the water’s surface, which is heated, and the cold of the ocean’s bottom. This difference in temperature can operate turbines that can drive generators. This would be a clean source of electricity therefore helping to reduce climate change by eliminating coal burning power plants.

Bioremediation uses microbes and plants to clean up contamination. Examples include the cleanup of nitrates in contaminated water with the help of microbes, and using plants to uptake arsenic from contaminated soil. There is an urgent need to clean up many of the contaminated sites on our planet such as the Deloro mine, a 202-hectare site that lies 65 kilometres east of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

I recently watched Disney’s movie, Tomorrowland.  This movie delivers a  message of hope for humanity. It is a call to use our human mental abilities and imagination to make changes that can repair the environmental damage that we humans have created. Just reading about some of the many new technologies being developed gives me hope for our planet. We humans are masters at screwing things up, such as our environment, but we are resilient and savvy enough to fix our mistakes. It just takes public awareness through education, a political will, and economic motivation. New technologies create new industries and new jobs. We can fix our environmental problems and still have a thriving economy.  Keeping things at the status quo is not an option.

There is a Cree Prophecy that says, “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.” It’s time we put our health and our planet’s welfare ahead of profits. Our survival as a species depends upon it.

 

 

 

 

 

What to believe?

Napoleon Bonaparte was once reported to have said, “History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”   George Kitson Clark once said, “No historian should be trusted implicitly.”  Norman Pearson is quoted as saying, “To look back upon history is inevitably to distort it.” There was a time whenever I read something in a history book or was taught something in a history class, I believed it to be the “Gospel truth.”  Now being older and wiser I no longer do.  So why would I say that?

imagesI recently read a book titled, Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King. What surprised me, was that Mr. King claims that the massacre that allegedly occurred at the Alamo was a fabrication, a story created over the years. But that is not what history says.

I did some internet research and Wikipedia says this about the Alamo massacre: “In the early morning hours of March 6, 1866,  the Mexican Army advanced on the Alamo. After repulsing two attacks, the Texans were unable to fend off a third attack… Between five and seven Texans may have surrendered; if so, they were quickly executed. Most eyewitness accounts reported between 182 and 257 Texans died, while most historians of the Alamo agree that around 600 Mexicans were killed or wounded.”  I checked other websites which say more or less the same thing. So who is right?

Mr. King also says, the story about Pocahontas and John Smith, perpetrated by Disney’s movie Pocahontas  is also a myth, or in other words a fabricated story. He claims that John Smith would have been 24 years old and Pocahontas maybe 10 or 12 years old at best.

Now Disney’s version of the story is one of romance between an American Indian woman named Pocahontas and John Smith, who journeyed together to the New World with other settlers to begin new lives.  Do the children, or even adults for that matter, who have watched this movie believe they have watched a historically accurate depiction of events of the past?  Probably.  My experience as a teacher has been most young people think what they see in movies and on television is truth or is real history. At least Wikipedia sets the record straight about the story of Pocahontas as it says, “In a well-known historical anecdote, she [Pocahontas] is said to have saved the life of an Indian captive, Englishman John Smith, in 1607 by placing her head upon his own when her father raised his war club to execute him. The general consensus of historians is that this story, as told by Smith, is untrue.”  So we know Mr. King is likely right about the Pocahontas story.

In July of 2007 while on a family trip to Eastern Canada,  we visited the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, NS. At that time there was an exhibition on pirates. It was interesting to learn that commonly held belief that pirates make their enemies walk the plank as well as the belief that  pirates often have parrots on their shoulders are myths. We learned that these are myths. There apparently is no historical evidence to support these commonly held beliefs about pirates. Also, the wide held belief that pirates buried their treasures is also a myth. I guess I was somewhat disappointed to learn about these untruths as I always thought pirates did bury their treasures.

So what else have we been taught that is NOT a historical truth?  According to the article, Facts Prove Everything You Thought You Knew About History… Is Dead Wrong, Christopher Columbus did not discover America. He only discovered the Caribbean Islands.  I don’t know about you, but I was taught in school that Columbus discovered America.  It has been proven that the Vikings were in North America before Columbus as there is an archeological site at the northern tip of Newfoundland where they discovered the remains of the Viking’s houses. In fact, they reconstructed a replica of the settlement about 100 yards away from the site. It has been unquestionably determined that the Vikings were there for about 10 years, specifically, Leif Erikson and his extended family. I guess I can erase that untruth from my memory.

Dictonary.com defines the “Napoleon complex” as the condition of being small in stature but aggressively ambitious and seeking absolute control. It could just as easily be called the “Short Man Syndrome.” In other words, this complex is named after Napoleon Bonaparte because of the widely held belief that Napoleon was short. But according to the 16 facts article I referred to earlier, the truth is Napoleon Bonaparte was not short at all. He was five feet, seven inches. That was slightly taller than average for a Frenchman at the time. Another historical inaccuracy to erase from memory.

The idea that Albert Einstein failed math in school is an urban myth (see 20 things you need to know about Einstein). It turns out that Einstein didn’t fail math in school, it was a false claim published by Ripley’s. The truth be known is that when he was 15, he mastered differential and integral calculus which makes sense since he is widely held as one of the world’s few geniuses.

Then there is the History Channel series called Hunting Hitler that proposes that Hitler faked his own death, escaped through the Berlin underground to an airport, flew to Spain where he was smuggled onto a U-boat and taken to Argentina with a stop at the Canary Islands. He then lived hidden in the Argentina jungles and was eventually seen in Brazil and Columbia. Now I was always taught that Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker in Berlin in 1945 although this apparently has never been confirmed. Now I must say after watching eight episodes and considering the evidence provided, I am now thinking what I’ve been taught about Hitler is wrong. I am now leaning towards the premise that Hitler did not die in his bunker in 1945.

Louis_RielIn Canada, history has always taught that Louis Riel, a Canadian Métis trailblazer, who led two resistance movements against the Canadian government and its first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald was a traitor. He was a traitor because he led two rebellions known as the Red River Rebellion of 1869–1870 and North-West Rebellion of 1885. In July of 1885 Riel was charged with treason. Riel was publicly executed by way of hanging in November of 1885. Since that time, the majority of Canadians have held the belief and been taught in school that Louis Riel was a trouble maker; someone who betrayed Canada which is why he was hung for treason. This is what I was taught in school and I have always believed that he was an insane traitor of Canada.  Ironically, on March 10, 1992, the Parliament of Canada passed a unanimous resolution that named Louis Riel as founder of the Province of Manitoba, because of his role in defending the interests of the Métis people and contributing to the political development of Western Canada.  So what is the truth?  Was he a traitor or was he one of Canada’s founders?  Personally, I now side with Riel as a hero who was willing to stand up to the government of the day for the rights of his people; the Métis people.

So what is a person to believe?  Should we trust what we read in the history books or what we see on the History Channel? I think not.  We must at the very least be skeptical. It is interesting how a person can grow up learning about historical events only to discover later in life that those events are untruths, or at least they have been exaggerated.  Having taught Social Studies for years, I have always taught my students to be skeptical.  History involves interpretation of the events that occurred in the past.  Therefore, interpretations can be slanted, exaggerated, and falsified.   To quote the Roman poet Phaedrus, “Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden.” Things are seldom what we’ve been led to believe. I guess now I have become a bit of a skeptic.

Christmas Controversies

Every year as the Christmas season approaches controversies erupt around political correctness and tolerance. This year there was the Starbucks controversy (see Red Cup Controversy) , which monopolized imageheadlines in November. The company typically has its red holiday cups decorated with snowflakes, Christmas ornaments or reindeer, but chose for a minimalist design this year with cups that are red with nothing but its green logo. Starbucks executives said they wanted to embrace “simplicity and quietness.” However some Christian conservatives saw these new cups as an attempt to diminish the importance of Christmas.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 10.50.33 AMAnother controversy occurred in Oakville, Washington, a town of 700 people who typically celebrates Christmas without controversy (see Christmas Message Sparks Controversy).  This year volunteer firefighters at Grays Harbor Fire District No.1 put a biblical message on their sign. The sign outside the fire station read, “Unto us a savior is born. Merry Christmas.” So when someone complained the fire commissioner ordered the sign to come down and their Christmas tree turned off.

I understand some of the thinking around these controversies. After all we live in a multicultural country and it is important to be sensitive to the different cultures around us. In fact, Canada celebrates multiculturalism and has officially made multiculturalism it’s policy. In 1971, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the father of Canada’s present prime minister, Justin Trudeau, acknowledged its commitment to the principle of multiculturalism and formalized a policy to protect and promote diversity. Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy. This policy affirmed the value and dignity of all Canadian citizens regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, their language, or their religious affiliation.

In 1988, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act was enacted by then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. This Act has two fundamental principles:

  1. All citizens are equal and have the freedom to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage.
  2. Multiculturalism promotes the full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins in all aspects of Canadian society.

The United States does not have any kind of act recognizing its multicultural diversity that I am aware of, but nonetheless, like Canada, it is a country made up of immigrants and therefore it’s society encompasses many cultures.

So I get it (I think). I understand the need to be sensitive to other religious traditions and cultures. After all, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act states, “Citizens…have the freedom to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage.” So the way I see it, Christmas is a time for Christians to share their religious heritage.

Christmas is celebrated on December 25th and is the day when Christians celebrate the birth of Yeshua or Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is regarded by most Christians as the Son of God and the savior of humanity. It seems every year there are some people who take offense to Christians expressing this belief.  Christians should not feel stifled in any way when celebrating one of their biggest festivals!

250px-Menorah_0307The Jewish tradition celebrates Hanukkah or the “Feast of Dedication,” also known as the “Festival of Lights”.  This festival is celebrated on the 8th day of December and it is a time when Jewish people recall a miracle in the Jerusalem temple during a war fought by the Maccabees for the cause of religious freedom. Temple candles only had enough oil to burn for a single day. Yet they burned for eight days. Jews light candles on a menorah, two on the first day, three on the second, to nine on the eighth day. Jews should not feel restricted in any way when celebrating Hanukkah. In fact, this celebration should be encouraged. Perhaps in addition to Starbucks having cups with Christmas decorations on it, the company should also include cups with the menorah on it.

Also on December 8th, or on the Sunday immediately preceding it, the Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day. This day recalls the day in 596 BCE, when Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha (meaning enlightened one) sat beneath a Bodhi tree and is believed to have achieved enlightenment, thus escaping the repeating cycle of reincarnation: involving birth, life, death and rebirth. Being this is an important day for the Buddhists, why not have some Starbucks cups with Bodhi trees on them in December as well. This would be a great way to educate people about the various religious traditions among us and maybe even build religious tolerance, which is so badly needed in our world.

For Muslims, Eid al-Adha is a significant annual Islamic observance for many Muslims around the world. It is also known as the Feast of Sacrifice or Festival of Sacrifice or Day of Sacrifice as it commemorates Ibrahim’s (Abraham) willingness to sacrifice his son to God. Eid al-Adha is a happy occasion that many Muslims celebrate. It is around the 10th to the 13th days of the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah (or Dhul Hijja). This is the twelfth and final month in the Islamic calendar. It is a very sacred month in the Islamic calendar, one in which Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) takes place. It is a time marked by special prayers and many Muslims gather for special prayer services. Many people also visit family and friends, exchange greetings and gifts, and make donations to the poor. It is also a time for forgiveness and compassion. Doesn’t that sound a lot like Christians at Christmas? At Christmas don’t people gather for special prayer services, visit family and friends, and exchange greetings and gifts?

In 2006, 2007, and 2008, Eid al-Adha was celebrated in December. These holy days have left December, but will return in about three decades. Why not have some Starbucks cups commemorating this Islamic festival during the month when it is celebrated. This would be a great way to educate people about Islam especially during a time in history when Islamophobia is rampant. Why not?

We can get so caught up in political correctness or the mentality that we might offend non-Christians if we celebrate Christmas publicly. These festivals should be celebrated publicly and acclaimed with pride. I am not referring to just the Christian festivals but all religious festivals. Instead of being afraid to offend someone, companies such as Starbucks, should be willing to acknowledge these festivals when they occur and their cups should acknowledge the festival of whichever religious celebration is occurring. Maybe I’m being naive, I don’t know. Maybe this is easier said than done, but it seems to me that this would be a way to educate people about the various religions of the world and a way to build religious tolerance rather than contributing to fear and resentment of other religious traditions.