It’s holiday season in Manhattan and despite the economic downturn, there seems to be no shortage of well-dressed humans cavorting, laughing, and spending freely. Walking among them, a homeless man begs for money-shaking his tattered coffee cup (adorned with images of Greek architecture) to rattle the few coins therein. A veteran of the first Gulf War, this man is no longer concerned with yellow ribbons. Right now, he’d settle for a scrap of food and a dry pair of shoes.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that nearly 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night and nearly 400,000 experience homelessness over the course of a year. Forty-five percent of America’s homeless veterans suffer from mental illness and half have substance abuse problems. According to the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients, veterans account for 23% of all homeless people in America.
The homeless vet is barely noticed by the 30-something corporate lawyer whizzing past him, on his way to dinner. It’s a holiday gathering to celebrate hope, change, and all that good stuff. The lawyer-still proudly wearing his Obama button-is running late and his colleagues have already ordered appetizers: shrimp cocktails all around (for only $17.00 each).
The United Nations Environment Program has estimated that a quarter of the destruction of mangrove forests stems from shrimp farming. After the 2008 Burma cyclone, Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan blamed “encroachment into mangrove forests, which used to serve as a buffer between the rising tide, between big waves and storms and residential areas.” He added: “All those lands have been destroyed. Human beings are now direct victims of such natural forces.”
The homeless vet sees a Wall Street type-still proudly wearing his Obama button-approaching him. “Hey buddy,” the vet tries, “how about a bailout?” The Wall Street type doesn’t laugh. The Wall Street type doesn’t even see the homeless vet. The Wall Street type tosses his half-finished Coke onto the sidewalk.
As labor activist Ray Rogers explains, “The reality is that the world of Coca-Cola is a world of lies, deceptions, corruption, gross human rights and environmental abuses!” Rogers told Democracy Now that Coke “contracted with paramilitary death squads to torture, kidnap, and murder union leaders at its bottling plants in Columbia.” If geo-political issues aren’t enough to move you, consider what Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences, says about Coke and its ilk: “The relationship between soft drink consumption and body weight is so strong that researchers calculate that for each additional soda consumed, the risk of obesity increases 1.6 times.”
The homeless vet picks up the Wall Street type’s Coke and downs it in one big gulp. Afterwards, he tosses the empty cup onto the sidewalk and glances to his left just in time to look through the restaurant window and see the corporate lawyer cheerfully biting into a piece of shrimp.
At that precise moment, an underwater tremor deep in the Pacific Ocean creates a powerful wave that will develop into a tsunami aimed directly for a popular vacation destination once protected by mighty mangroves.