From the October 2003 Idaho Observer:
Lessons from the Old World
Observations: The first thing we noticed as soon as we got off the plane in Zurich was the conspicuous absence of elderly people in wheelchairs so increasingly a part of the American landscape. The epidemic obesity among American children and adults was not observable throughout our travels in Europe. After having noticed that the European diet consists of bread, cheese, meat, pasta and vegetables -- not unlike the American diet -- we sought to find out why Europeans were so much healthier. It seems that it's not the food; it's the process. Where America poisons its food, Europeans do not. There are few fast food restaurants. Where American hospitals are perpetually expanding to meet the demand of an increasingly sick America, European hospitals appear to be servicing a stable population of sickness.
America is choking on its own garbage, most of the volume attributable to packaging and disposable items.
In Europe, one does not see nearly the quantities of plastic and styrofoam packaging and food is served with real silverware and utensils, real flatware and real glassware that is washed for future use. The use of disposable items, obvious in America, was not obvious in Europe.
The intelligent use of land is apparent everywhere: Good farmland stays as farmland; the forests are healthy and stable though wood products and firewood are used; old buildings are in good shape and used before new ones are built. The burying of farmland in America to accommodate urban sprawl and U.S. government forest management practices would not be tolerated in Europe.
When Europeans get together for discussions, they must accommodate several languages: Swiss German, high and low German, Italian, Polish, Czech, French and English. Though English is the most common intermediate language, interpretation is almost always necessary. As a result, Europeans are patient and politely await their turn to speak after actually listening to what is said. Americans have a tendency to impatiently await their turn to talk after not listening to what others have to say.
No matter how many police patrol the roads in America, the number of accidents continues to increase. Though there are few, if any police on the roads in Europe, I witnessed no accidents.
So, stop eating processed food, stop making so much garbage, treat the land with respect and demand that police only act when called.
The conference: The competence the Mut zur Ethik organization displayed cannot be applauded enough. They are all volunteers in an association of psychologists and teachers who have been working together as a family of friends with a shared vision for 13 years. The patience, generosity, and hospitality that seemed so natural to them was a model of how one should treat their guests.
Most of the guest speakers came from all over the world and were not put up in hotels. We arrived by Sept. 3 and were placed into homes in and around Cirnoch, Switzerland. We ate breakfast at our adopted homes and then traveled to Cirnoch to hold discussions that were interrupted only by going together to eat lunch and dinner. By Sept. 5, we were friends who had been talking shop, talking personal, breaking bread, drinking wine and singing songs together for two days.
At the conference most of us (an entourage of about 20-30) stayed in hotels where, in our spare moments, we were still getting together to talk and eat and drink.
After the conference, which went so well and was of such benefit to all in attendance, we went back to our adopted homes and reconvened in Cirnoch for more discussions and field trips through the Swiss countryside.
By now we cannot even call ourselves friends because we are feeling more like a part of the MZE family. Though we come from all parts of the world, all different backgrounds and all different experiences and worldviews, the bond between us seems to be the shared vision of a better world and our resolve to use the talents God gave us to achieve that end.
Even the Americans.
After the conference, about 20 organizers and speakers took a hike in the Alps and ended up at a restaurant. By now we were all friends and talked animatedly with one another. When lunch was served, it suddenly got quiet for a moment. A woman named Amadeo commented, When food arrived everyone stopped talking, even the Americans. All of us thought that was pretty funny.
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