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Stories of Life Change

The Roots of Everything

May 29, 2019

There’s no shortage of problems in the world to solve.

As a student, Philippe Lazaro knew he wanted to apply his international interests to help solve some of these problems, but getting started was a journey in and of itself.

A slew of internships and volunteer opportunities took him around the world. From the Demilitarized Zone in between North and South Korea to orphan centers in South Africa, he encountered many areas of injustice. A few years in, however, he started to realize that these issues shared some common roots of poverty and desperation.

At a similar point in life, Christi Huizenga was working for a leading anti-trafficking organization in Calcutta. As she helped investigators stop the exploitation of people, she started to ask why the issues were happening in the first place. She realized that many of the bad guys she encountered were driven to that point out of desperation.

Both Christi and Philippe now work in the Plant With Purpose development department. They also cohost the GrassRoots podcast. In the debut episode, both trace their own roots to explore how looking at root causes led them to environmental action.

Christi worked closely with our Tanzania program for many years.

Christi worked closely with our Tanzania program for many years.

Root causes are the theme of our first episode.

The common factor is vulnerability and desperation. When the question of your family’s safety and security is on the line, you become capable of doing things you’d never otherwise think of doing.

This is what drives so much harmful behavior around the world- from illegal deforestation to human trafficking, exploitative labor to participating in armed groups, organized crime to migration. It’s also a reason why you see families skip meals or take their kids out of school, resulting in malnutrition, poor health, or a lack of education.

Two of the biggest contributors to desperation? Poverty and environmental woes.

Many of the people who live in the conditions of poverty and desperation come from agricultural lives. In fact, the rural farming sector makes up 85% of those in poverty. When they can’t produce enough food, things turn desperate.

This is part of the way environmental issues play such a big role in other justice issues facing the planet.

Abdul Ada, a Mozambican marine biologist is one of our first guests.

Abdul Ada, a Mozambican marine biologist is one of our first guests.

We’re connecting these dots with a little help

“The environment, people. It's all connected. People are a part of the environment,” explains Abdul Ada.

Abdul is a biologist and researcher from Mozambique. He explains how the environment will greatly determine how people suffer or recover in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai.

Abdul is one of a few guests helping us make this connection.

We also talk to Lucy McCray in Thailand, who works with The Freedom Story. She and her team try and stop exploitation before it happens, through prevention and resilience building. She acknowledges that the rural areas face a lot of added challenges, compounded by environmental conditions.

And to see if these conditions apply domestically as well, we talk to Chelsea Barnes with Appalachian Voices. Chelsea works at the intersection of poverty and environmental issues in West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.

Want to listen? The first episode of GrassRoots is now live! Tune in on iTunes, Spotify, or Stitcher!

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