A World That Most People Will Never See


Danforth Fellows Class of 1964

Danforth Fellows Class of 1964

I remember back 15 years ago when I was deciding on what school I wanted to attend for my final step in becoming an occupational therapist.  I applied at several West coast schools and Washington University in St. Louis.  As I sat with my parents discussing my choices, it was clear which school my dad wanted me to go to.  He wanted me to go to Wash U.

Why Washington University in St. Louis? As a young and upcoming leader, he had an opportunity to attend the Danforth Fellowship sponsored by Ralston Purina.  He had attended a land grant college and was invited to attend this event that would open the eyes to people going into agriculture.  Part of this fellowship was spent to he Wash U campus where he had the chance to see the latest and greatest research in agriculture, medicine, and engineering.  It was pretty amazing things to see for a Hawaii boy indeed.

So when I told him that I really was considering going to Wash U, he got super excited and said to go there.  He knew that what I’d see and learn there would definitely open up my eyes and mind.  And like all dad’s advice, he was right about it.

Washington University Campus Map in 1964

Washington University Campus Map in 1964

The OT school itself was an amazing place to be.  There were the latest and greatest gadgets being used to help people with disabilities, state of the art home modifications, research on how to facilitate independence with self care, and innovative programs to take care of those with mental health issues and children with special needs.  Even though I had volunteered at the state of the art acute rehab hospital in Hawaii for nearly 3 years, what I saw there just blew me away.  There were great things happening and I had barely scratched the surface.  I was excited to learn more.

Now that it has been nearly 15 years since I left Wash U, I realize how much that two years there really changed me as a person.  There are so many amazing things happening in research around the world to make life better for people.  School itself gave me the facts and theory base to practice OT but it did so much more than that.  It gave me a way to think about things in a whole different perspective.  I learned a very unique way of thinking that was never taught to me…  Systems thinking.

In grade school and even through college, I was taught to think very linearly.  If you do X, then Y will result.  The problem with that kind of thought process is that the world does not operate linearly.  Everything is tied together and interdependent on each other.  Affecting one part to change another always results in unintended consequences if we don’t thoroughly look at the entire system that we are affecting.  It’s a pretty big way of thinking and leads to more questions that answers, but that is the beauty of it.  We can really start to see the bigger issues and start to realize those consequences more thoroughly before jumping to some grandiose solution.  I feel as if it makes my mind start exploding with ideas and integrating of the all the connections.  It’s fun and frustrating to think of the issues in this way but so very helpful.

My mind is always thinking about things and connecting the dots to how everything is integrated as part of this system.  Too many people have become very small thinkers here in Hawaii as we can see with the whole anti-GMO “non-controversy.”  It will never matter what kind of tests or evidence comes up, the narrative against the technology is all about the “multinational agribusiness companies.”  Little do people realize the impact biotechnology is having around the work and in their own lives!  From food to medicine to textiles, we are surrounded by biotechnology but the majority continues to fear it.

I can never expect everyone to see the world as I do or think like myself because my experiences are unique.  I wish others think further and research their facts and statements before becoming grounded in ideology.  The very ideology that leads them into thinking they are saving the world does the complete opposite and they don’t even realize it.

Most of the anti-GMO club members have never suffered a day in their life.  None has ever starved a day in their life or had to grow all of their food and textiles.  No Moms on a Mission members have lost a child due to starvation or preventable blindness caused by a lack of nutrition. None of the Babes Against Biotech has spend more than a day trying to grow food for the masses and dealing with the bugs and pests.  None of the rich part time millionaires funding these activists have farmed a day in their life or contributed those carrots that they claim will help poor children.  None of the proponents of the Hawaii Organic Farming Association has ever lost thousands of dollars worth of crops to disease and crop destruction or had people tell them that their fruit was poisonous.  I highly doubt that politicians like Kaniela Ing, Gary Hooser, Tim Bynum, Elle Cochran, Margaret Wille, Brenda Ford, or Russell Ruderman have had to figure out how to stretch their dollar to the end of the month to feed their families.

These people live in a completely different world than most people I know.  They have plenty of food available but will easily complain that they don’t have a disingenuous “right to know,” when in reality, they can simply choose organic.  They are willing to push for political favoring for this kind of movement, ignoring the costs and implications it will have on everything else.  From having to enact the law and enforcing it in the name of curiosity, they are willing to have everyone pay for this.  These people talk about wanting more locally grown food but then turn around and push for laws that make it even harder to farm by limiting tools and technology available.  They also have no qualms with spreading fear and misinformation against certain farmers and don’t think twice about it.  There in no integrity among the followers of this GMO free movement at all.  They thrive solely on fear, emotion, and plain old ignorance of how these decisions will have so many unintended consequences.  That’s just irresponsible and not how we need to move forward for a better future.

Do we want a world steeped in fear, misinformation, and lies of a technology being perpetuated by mob like mentality?  Or do we want an open future that has a huge potential to impact our own lives as well as the lives of other in the world?  We all live together in this world and we should move forward using facts, evidence, and knowledge.  That’s the world I want for my children.


A poem saved by my dad that still inspires him to this day.



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