What Ifs


Decades have come and gone since I was a boy scout, but now in retirement I am getting back into hiking.  Much has changed, but the basic human needs for survival have not: air/oxygen, potable water, fire, shelter (including clothing), food, hope, and a certain amount of savvy.  Mosquito netting and some know-how about potentially dangerous wildlife, weather conditions, and first aid can help, too, depending upon the situation.

Not long ago, I read about a young father and two of his sons who perished in the mountains because they were caught in rain and darkness with dropping temperatures, no protective clothing, no light source, and no knowledge of how to survive.  I found myself thinking a lot about those two boys and how they could have been saved if they had been found after their father had stumbled off into the darkness and gotten lost.  I had already begun to gather things I called “what ifs,” but that tragic incident pushed my thinking.  What if a day hike turned into an unexpected overnight?  What if one of us sprained or broke an ankle?  Or fell into water in temperatures low enough to cause hypothermia?

I expanded my “what if” thinking to include ordinary car trips and not just when we were driving through an Arizona desert where packing water and protective clothing is as advisable as knowing what to do in a dust storm or the kind of cloud burst that generates flash flooding which turns dips in the road into impassible washes.

I’m no survival expert, and I’m not about to try to carry on my back special equipment for every conceivable situation, but I do think about the what ifs.  I also keep learning from people who know more than I about safety and responsible practices outdoors.

But this morning, I’m thinking on the larger scale.  On Facebook, the Presbyterian Hunger Program posted an article with the lead, “Democracy and diversity can mend broken food systems – final diagnosis from UN right to food expert.”  The article begins with this:

 “The eradication of hunger and malnutrition is an achievable goal. However, it will not be enough to refine the logic of our food systems – it must instead be reversed,” Mr. De Schutter stressed during the presentation of his final report to the UN Human Rights Council after a six-year term as Special Rapporteur.

The expert warned that the current food systems are efficient only from the point of view of maximizing agribusiness profits. “At the local, national and international levels, the policy environment must urgently accommodate alternative, democratically-mandated visions,” he said.

Here’s the whole thing, which is not long.

I believe we need to think about “what if” beyond the survival and well-being of “me and mine.”  Maximizing profits is a perverse goal that drives us toward slavery and death.  It’s not the word “profits” than enslaves and kills; it’s the word “maximizing” that becomes ruthless, glorifies greed, and falsely justifies inhuman practices.