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Profile of Nadja Halilbegovich
Well, I definitely think that we can't [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I definitely think that we can't counteract violence, anger, or hatred with more violence, anger and hatred. It will only fuel the conflict and perpetuate the cycle of violence. So, I think peace is the way, finding peaceful resolution, negotiating resolutions, finding solutions. I think that is the only way that we don’t just further add to the conflict, further deepen the anger, the hatred, the violence. And I think so often peace and peaceful negotiations and everything, they get sort of a bad [rap] as though it’s a very passive lazy way of finding solutions or it’s no way at all. And I think if anything, being peaceful and finding solutions without bombing each other and killing one another, is the hard way. So, I think we just have to realize that war is not the answer. Everyone loses in a war. Once when I was speaking to the 5th grade class about my experiences, and after I was done sharing about my story and shared my story of being wounded and escaping the war and so many children being orphaned in the city and having their limbs torn off, this little girl raised her hand and she said "Nadja, who won?" I remember being dumbfounded. No one had ever asked me that question. So, I thought about it for a while and realized that no one did. War is not a board game. Everyone loses because everyone loses something or someone. Someone loses their mother, someone loses their hand or leg, their childhood, everything they owned. War is not the way. Peace is the way.
I think this is an incredible question. I [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think this is an incredible question. I personally have worked and still do work hard within myself to truly respect other -- all other forms of life, human and just animals, our planet. And I think this is really important because I think we are in big trouble when we as human beings see ourselves superior and more worth than other forms of life. In fact, you know, all form of life sustain us. So if we think that we are so superior and we can abuse them and use them I think that that creates an incredible imbalance and something that will inevitably lead to problems and it has led to problems. I myself in my own path of discovering and exploring myself as well as trying to better myself have decided a decade ago to become a vegetarian and that was a very personal and very important decision for me that I will stick with forever in my life, I believe, because I felt that -- I really have a huge respect for animals of all kinds and I read so many books and heard people talk about the abuse of animals in the food industry, the meat industry and the way they are treated when they are alive and the way they are killed and the way the meat is even, you know, the safety of the meat that we eat or that other people eat. And, so I’ve decided to become a vegetarian and another thing I do is I eat mostly organic food and I think that in that way I can support the ecosystems and the environment, our soil and our air because the organic farmers do not use any pesticides and artificial synthetic products to grow our vegetables, our fruits. And I think that that’s really important that sustaining the environment and sustaining the soil, not degrading it and not polluting our water, our drinking water and our soil. And thirdly, I really try to buy fair treat products when I’m buying food because they empower [audio ends]
Well, I think that capitalism currently [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think that capitalism currently perpetuates this horrific gap between rich and the poor and I think that we need to work on making capitalism more humane and more altruistic. And by that I mean a system where the poor countries are not remaining poor and being crippled by their debt and people not included in trade and in production and in development. So I think I found three ways that we can help make the capitalism fair and more humane; one is use of microlending, I was talking about that earlier. I think it reaches people who truly need, you know, just that much that little trust and that little money that they can actually rise above their poverty. And I think it doesn’t empower them only financially, it empowers them just as human beings and you know, through research -- researching the effects of microlending they’ve come up with amazing stories of women who receive these microloans who are empowered as human beings and as heads of their families and their whole family, their children go and are educated, their health is improved. So microlending is one way. Another is fair trade, use of fair trade which means that, you know, people would actually -- get fairly paid for their hard labor and they’d live and work in conditions that are really humane and deserving, and third debt cancellation to poorest of the nation so that again the funds that they are paying back to the developed nations go to develop them to make AIDS pandemic finally something that we can grapple with, eradicate hunger and just again have them grow.
Well, I think you can do both. If economic [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think you can do both. If economic profit overrides human rights then definitely people are repressed and people don’t participate in the economic growth and don’t reap benefits of their labor and of the natural resources of their country. However, if the system and the government supports people and encourage people to participate in the economic growth, then I think that does promote democracy and promote stability in democracy. It can do both but, of course, I believe that it should always promote democracy, stability, promote human rights, fairly pay people, give them fair human conditions, humane conditions to work in. So, it should definitely only promote democracy and human rights.
Well, I think that these young people feel [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think that these young people feel disengaged from the society. I think they feel already sentenced to a very bleak reality. They don’t see opportunities for themselves. They don’t see that the society will offer them opportunities to grow, to succeed and that’s where we have to help them. We have to engage them again. We have to empower them and we have to help them. Funds should be poured into inner city schools and schools where kids are not encouraged and there are no programs that can encourage them to develop themselves to discover their unique gifts and interests. Funds should be used in providing schools with departments like for the arts, athletics. They should incorporate community service, trips, volunteering for them. All in hope that all these things will help them achieve a sense of self and help them get inspired and empowered, so that they truly feel like the society cares and there is a bright and hopeful future in front of them. I think then they will have our trust again and they will feel that we trust them as well and they will be engaged again in the society and I don’t think that then there will be a reason for violence.
I thought about this question a lot because [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I thought about this question a lot because it makes me so sad that Jason, the gentleman who asked this question, feels like this, that he serves and loves his country, yet the country treats him unfairly like an unwanted child. I think it’s a very emotional question and it definitely resonates with me. I don’t know why it’s happening but all I can say is from my own experience I love my country, Bosnia. I choose not to live in my country much because of the terrible experiences and pain that I have gone through during my childhood, during the war in Bosnia, but that does not affect my love, my love and connection with our country and perhaps that is why Jason feels still that he has this deep love for his country and connection with his country even when it brings him so much pain. For me, it’s past pain. For him, it’s present pain. And all I can say is it’s quite normal obviously to love one’s country even when we associate it with some bad things like pain and suffering, because that’s where our roots were sprung, that’s where we have our family members and are some hopefully good experiences. So, all I can hope for is that someday this gentlemen will feel love for his country and his country will also have love for him and he will feel more connected and wanted because that is the only way that it should be.
It is really hard to imagine so much money [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: It is really hard to imagine so much money being invested in something so good, so many good things that it could be used for betterment of our world. I think it could be used for better education, making education available to all the people in the world because again education is the way of investing into our future, educating young people, educating girls, especially in developing nations where they don't get education, educating everyone. It is just the way to invest in our future and we will certainly profit from it. Investing in health care and health care services making it available to all the people. There are so much disease and so many epidemics in the world. If we had the money and if we used our money for those things, we could eradicate so many of these diseases, find cures for AIDS, for cancer, for Alzheimer’s. All this money could be used to better and improve people’s lives who are struck by these diseases. It could also be used to help our environment, to increase awareness of what we have done to our environment so far and preserve water, air, cleanse our water, and make again the infrastructure that would allow everyone equal access to water. It can be used for so many things and I am sure all of us can come up with a list of great things to use the money for. But bottom line is that it should be used for betterment and improvement of the world, not to the arms and weapons that are ultimately there to destroy and wipe out the world.
Well, I think it is a responsibility of all [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think it is a responsibility of all of us as citizens of our countries and citizens of the world to make our voice be heard and our governments should serve us and they should represent our voice as a nation. And we must have our voice be heard either individually -- well actually both, individually and as communities, groups, nations. And that can be achieved by making sure that we are connected and communicate with our government representatives. People who represent us and also through community gatherings, marches, peaceful rallies, petitions. There are so many ways that we can be active citizens and in fact this is not an option, I think that it is our responsibility as citizens that comes with being a citizen of a country. Being responsible and being aware of what is happening in the world and knowing what position our government is taking in that particular situation and we just have to be represented by the governments that represent us in the world. Also, we can join non-profit organizations and organizations that support and promote peace and betterment of the world and work with them, volunteer for them, we can take trips to the countries whose position and state of the world and state of politics or social issues concern us and we can see first hand what’s happening there and get involved that way.
I think every time a child is born anywhere [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think every time a child is born anywhere in the world no matter what’s his gender, his race, anything, her language, we have immediately, inherently, a right to live, to think, to grow, to grow in a peaceful fair world, and to choose our own path in life. However, these rights, these basic human rights and dignities are so often abused and taken away from the people. And I myself was 12 years old when the war began in my country of Bosnia, and right away so many dignities and liberties as a human being were taken away from me. As a child to me it meant that I couldn’t go to school and I couldn’t grow and learn normally. All of a sudden there were bombs and sniper bullets and I myself was wounded during the war. So, my own dignities and liberties and freedoms of just growing up and having a cheerful carefree childhood of not fearing from my own life at the age of 12 of not fearing from my safety, all of that was taken away. And I remember learning about the UN Convention on the rights of the child and thinking to myself, “Why is there such a convention when everyone is just trampling it? Why is there a document that is worthless it seems in Bosnia when so many children are dying and their basic liberty of just living and breathing freely and walking freely are taken away?” And I don’t have the answer to that except to say that us as adults, me -- myself as an adult today living in a developed peaceful country, we have the responsibility to be constantly aware what is happening in the world because I think one of the main things that really hurt me during the war, apart from the bombs and bullets and just the horrific reality, was the fact that I felt alone. I felt like the rest of the world, the people, adults that were in peaceful countries did not care what was happening to children in my country and in other countries that have the war. So, I think that we just need to be more aware and really encourage and demand of our governments to get involved and create peace in the world.
I think this has been a long -- centuries [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think this has been a long -- centuries long struggle of the human kind to find a way for everyone to be fed, for every child to live a normal childhood, to grow up and their bodies develop, no one to starve, no one to die of death, of starvation and unfortunately we have not yet found a solution for this horrible problem. I think that we must especially in the developed countries we must use our resources and funds to help people in -- especially in crisis whenever we can and always so that we save children especially and all people of dying such horrible deaths of hunger. However, I think that sending food also is a band-aid solution. It’s just helping for the time being. So it’s good in the crisis situation and it should be done, but I also think that we should put our minds truly into finding other solutions, more sustainable solutions to fix this problem. We should first of all approach each country uniquely because every country has, you know, unique case of problems and why hunger is happening there due to either conflicts or environmental concerns or just poverty level in that country. So I think we should definitely find more sustainable ways to help the countries and that means going to the people, going to the country and finding the sustainable answers within those people, within that country so that we don't create dependency, but we create stability and sustainability. And one other way that I thought was something that would be a step forward to that is ending the practice of tied aid to developing nations and that is where they have to spend those funds buying services and resources from the wealthy countries because that is money that has to be used in that way and I don't think it promotes growth of that country as much as it could if it wasn’t tied. So I think that's yet another way of helping the countries to grow. Another one would be to cancel their debt, so that their resources are not soaked up by paying debt, but instead go to eradicating hunger, inspiring education and health services and just stabilizing the country. So there’re so many things we can do and we should always give food and give funds and take food wherever we can and help hungry people from those terrible deaths, but I think we need to find sustainable solutions as well.
I think it is what we make it to be. I [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think it is what we make it to be. I think economic system is what we make it to be, the power of the system and its definition and usage lies within us, within the people. We have the power to redefine it and I think it's not inherently corrupt. I think it's not humane enough. I think it's inspired by greed and inequality. Again, here is that whole equation of, do we have to keep someone poor in order to remain wealthier, to keep getting wealthy and I think that that’s a wrong equation. It should really be an equation of equality. Wealth equals wealth, everyone being wealthy. In terms of -- and again I redefine wealth as having enough and living conscientiously, not having too much or having more than someone else. Just having equal access to food, to water, having the right to feed and school our children, have enough to just follow our visions and grow as human beings throughout their lives. So, I think it's what we make it to be and we should consistently and constantly work on humanizing our economic system, making it more altruistic and humane.
It’s true the last century has seen so many [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: It’s true the last century has seen so many wars and loss of innocent life and I think sometimes we grow numb to all the statistics, to all the unimaginably large numbers that we see and hear on radio and television and we sort of don’t really connect with those statistics. They are just numbers to us and it's easy just to not even take time to think about the people that are those statistics. The people whose lives were taken away; children especially, innocent children who lost their lives, lost their innocent lives to conflict and to wars. I also think that sometimes we just fall into the comfort of our own lives, especially living in developed, peaceful nations and we sort of tune out the news, we tune out the tragic stories, we almost take it for granted that’s the way the world is. And we also think well that conflict is happening far away; it's really not concerning me, it’s too far away from me geographically and far from my mind to really spend any time on it. And again I think that’s wrong because it should matter. We are all human beings of one planet and when a child, especially a child is suffering, or losing his or her parents, or losing a limb because of conflict and wars led by adults. It should matter. Every child’s story, every innocent person's story should matter. So, I think that we must just reconnect with all the people in the world and really feel that whenever a child is killed somewhere, whenever an innocent person suffers, it should feel as though a family member of ours is suffering and in fact it is our family member, human family member and it’s really sad that we allow these things to happen, but I guess it's easy in today’s world, so busy and rushed, modernized, to just kind of tune out things and they become just a background, all these statistics, but we must remember that these are human lives that it just as well could be our child or ourselves.
I think we need to work on finding solutions [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think we need to work on finding solutions to create our economic system in such a way that it’s more humane to people, to our planet, to our environment instead of sort of greed-oriented and greed inspired. Our nations, developing and developed nations are constantly growing industrially and economically, but that should not mean that we are also constantly destroying our natural resources which of course if it continues like this it will become depleted. I think we have to find a way to grow economically and industrially without ruining our planet, without disrespecting other human beings as well as disrespecting animals, our ecosystem, our environment. One way to do that is to find more energy efficient ways of growing industrially and not polluting our country so much, our air, our water, our planet. So we just need to find more sustainable ways of growing without again destroying our only home we have, our planet.
I think corporate social responsibility is [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think corporate social responsibility is not only possible, it is absolutely necessary because we cannot keep depleting our natural resources just for the sake of growing. In fact, it is ridiculous because on one hand we are gaining and one hand we are losing something that cannot be gained back if destroyed completely. So, I think that corporate accountability and responsibility is absolutely necessary for sustainability of our planet. Also, apart from the environmental accountability, we need to hold corporations responsible for the way they treat their workers and treat people. People need to be respected. They need to work in environment that is humane and fair and they need to be fairly paid. So, I think that we cannot keep going like this; depleting our resources and violating basic human rights of workers in order to grow. So absolutely, corporate responsibility, social responsibility is not only possible, it is absolutely necessary.
I absolutely agree it’s true that women are [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I absolutely agree it’s true that women are still at a disadvantage and that we have an imbalance and that they are not equal participants in all areas of society. However, I do think that we are on the right track as women. I think that we’ve have had in the past and currently in the present have women who are strong role models, women who are proving their intelligence, their courage, their capability in all areas that we excel. So, I think we just need to constantly work on creating this balance, men and women working together, working equally, being paid equally and fairly. I think that it also lies in us, women. I think that we need to feel sisterhood amongst each other and amongst ourselves; we need to encourage one another and empower one another. And I certainly have had dozens of role models, women who’ve inspired me in my life and I hope someday that I can be that someone for someone else, my child some day. And I think that is the way to go; just keep walking in our common dream of achieving fairness and equality in the world.
Well, throughout their history, the people [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, throughout their history, the people of Africa have had so many struggles and such horrific time to face and that’s why they are at such terrible disadvantage. They’ve had constant struggle for their basic human rights. They were enslaved. They have had horrible time with hunger, AIDS pandemic, other diseases; all of them preventable, all of them treatable, but they are still at horrific disadvantage. I think very much due to the fact that we are not helping enough. In the developed nations we have the power to help them more. We have the power to cancel their debt so that they are not using their resources to pay these debts, but rather to use them to build up their country and prevent and treat AIDS and hunger. Also another way that we can help them is make sure that their governments really are working for the people. Lot of governments are corrupt and we need to make sure that transparency of governments in what they do is in place in all these countries. So that they can really -- the governments can really work for the people and for the benefit of the people. As far as AIDS pandemic, we can do so much, we can make sure that the medicine is available, we can make sure that pharmaceutical companies make the medicine not only available, but for the prices to go down, so that the poor people in Africa can actually afford this medicine. I’ve just recently read that in researches done there, people of Africa are using the medicine correctly and following doctor’s orders much more than and much better than people in the developed nations. So they are proving that they really want to, you know, help themselves and receive our help and use it wisely so that they can build up their lives, they can support their families and they can rise above their poverty. So Africa is an incredibly inspiring continent in all the countries it is just wonderful and people really could rise above all their struggles, but they have started at an incredible disadvantage.
Well, first of all, I think we should not [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, first of all, I think we should not forget that in a democracy, government should represent the people and our voices should be heard. If that is not happening, I think we should make sure that we are first of all aware and educated about the situation of the world and have views on these issues and then have our voices be heard as individuals and as groups. As individuals we can and -- it is our responsibility as citizens to make our voices be heard, so directly write to our representatives, call them, write them letters, make sure that they know our opinion and how strongly we feel about something. Also as communities, we can organize petitions, rallies, peaceful marches, gatherings, events that again can bring people together and bring people of similar interests and equal passions and similar passions together and create a movement. I mean citizens have so much power and the power is ours to relinquish or the power is ours to preserve so we have to do everything we can to preserve our voice, to preserve democracy, and uphold it to it’s highest and truest form and standard. Another thing we can do especially if we think about a country in particular is, we can individually via internet or just going over there or approaching people who are from there, individually contact them and create a network where we let our voices be heard and create a forum, create a network that will allow the people from those countries know that our government doesn’t represent us and that we do think differently that we want peace with them and that we have compassion for them. Bottom-line is we as citizens of our countries, of the world, we have a connection, we just need to preserve it and there is really no one in power that can prevent us from being human and humane and connecting with those people and expressing our views especially if you want peace in the world, if we are wanting to connect with our fellow brothers and sisters all across the world.
We’ve come to live in a world largely [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: We’ve come to live in a world largely obsessed with acquiring things, being wealthy, acquiring status and that’s a very sad reality of our world. Again, I think it's important to define wealth and if wealth means just going to have more and more and never having enough and always being obsessed by that then it's absolutely unacceptable. I think that it creates just such a terrible imbalance of poverty and wealth. So many people suffer from that. I think that wealth should be redefined and wealth should mean having, but also giving. And that means for individuals or for groups or families to be a part of charitable organization or going into countries that don’t have enough and realizing that these people can help the poor people. And, we can do so much with our wealth and on a happy note, I think there have been so many individuals. It's hard to name some of them because there are so many of them, but in particular perhaps Bono, the singer of U2 or Bill Gates and other humanitarians who really use their wealth and their fame, their status as a currency to help to fund incredible humane projects. And, so I think that all of us regardless of our wealth and our position should find in our hearts to help those who are -- who don’t have enough. And, there is always going to be someone wealthier than us and someone poorer than us. So, we should all engage in this project of balancing out our planet and finding more quality and fairness in our lives.
Well, I think it’s even – it’s mind [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think it’s even – it’s mind puzzling, it’s so hard to even imagine but the world would be infinitely and profoundly different place today. And what I could focus on and say is that I think Africa and African countries would be profoundly different today and definitely better off, because so many of peoples, so many of strong bodied, strong willed, intelligent, strong people were taken away from that country. And I think it would mean that today African countries would not be so poor, would not have had the struggle of so much hunger and poverty and I think in their hearts and in their souls, they would be better off because there would be no degradation of their human rights, of their basic needs. They would have never been slaves, they would have never experienced such horrific human struggles and I think even the AIDS pandemic and different diseases that are affecting Africa so much and even the debt that is definitely affecting the situation, all of that would probably not be there. So it is hard to say, but I think Africa more than any other part of the world would be so much better off if none of that ever happened.
I think it might be necessary to break the [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think it might be necessary to break the law when the law is unjust, unjust and when it goes against our humanity and our basic human rights and we can really feel that and we can feel that the law is restraining our inherent human rights. And the best example I could come up with in the past is Rosa Parks, this incredible woman who refused to give up a seat to a white man just because he was white. I think that law went against her sense of self, her sense of equality that she was just as worthy as anyone else. A white male or black male, it went against her sense of fairness in the world and of the truth of the fact that we are all equal, no matter what our race. And I think that’s a perfect example and I am sure there are so many examples of that and there will be examples of that in the future. So the law is there to serve us, to protect us, not to restrain and abuse us, to abuse us, our human rights and our basic dignity. So, when the law goes against the truth, the truth that we all can feel within our bodies, the truth that is the only truth and that’s right for us. Then it might be necessary to break it and to change it to make it more humane.
Well, I think democracy defined as a system [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think democracy defined as a system or a philosophy where everyone has equal rights, equal opportunities, and the voices of the people are represented by their government and their government representatives is inherently good. It sounds good. However, in practice, a lot of people live without democracy, without their rights, without equal opportunities, and definitely without their voices being heard by their government. So, in theory and in philosophy I think democracy works. However, I think we need to work harder at making democracy work in reality, so that is not just a philosophy, some beacon, some ideal that we are trying to achieve. We should achieve democracy everywhere in the world because it gives equal rights to all people. It gives opportunities to all people regardless of where they are coming from, how rich or poor they are and what their race or language is. So, we just need to work towards really making democracy work to its highest and best standard.
I thought a lot about this question and I [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I thought a lot about this question and I cannot come up with a really definitive answer because you need to do a lot of future gazing and sort of thinking about what’s possible in the future and I guess we can look at our future by looking at our past and in the past, change has been natural and inevitable. Power has shifted hands, power rises and falls so, I guess inevitably change will happen and powers will change hands, but my hope is that unlike in the past where change of power, well, usually leads to lot of instability and human suffering and in human loss, I hope that cooler and intelligent heads will prevail so that we minimize and prevent human loss and human suffering but I think the change is natural. Change is part of life and it is inevitable.
Well, I think if we define brands as logos [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think if we define brands as logos and labels that we see in everyday life, that we see through ads on television, billboards, radio, television, newspaper, even on the clothes we wear, then they’re extremely powerful because we see them everyday and they stimulate our minds, our hearts, they stimulate our thought process and often they overwhelm us. I myself find that so many signals and signs and flashing billboards and the flashing screens can often very much influence what I'm thinking and what I'm feeling at the time. I think they’re very powerful because obviously they influence us not only in the mind and in the heart but also monetarily. Oftentimes we’re, you know, all of a sudden this desire and surge of wanting arises in us. However, if I think of governments, I think of extreme power and huge power because governments are those that bring us and take our countries to war, that defend our borders, defend our countries, they’re the ones who spend the budget for different things, fund our schools, fund our health services. So I would say that still governments are more powerful but definitely both brands, logos, labels, are powerful as well.
I love this question. To me courage means [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I love this question. To me courage means living authentically, living humanely and I find myself -- asking myself a lot these days and actually the years that I have been in my twenties. What does it really mean to me to live authentically? What does that really mean living with courage. And I guess it means knowing yourself, exploring yourself always and opening yourself up for different experiences, different people and realizing that when the heart is pure and empty of superficial thoughts and feelings of desire to have just things, that is pure and full of love and compassion for other people. So, to me achieving courage and having courage means really just living in balance with yourself, inside yourself and with others, opening yourself with compassion to other people, to your planet, to your environment and always being aware of other people as well as the planet and our impact on them, on stranger and a friend and a family member and that is hard to sustain. Everyday I guess as human beings we do something where we fail to be all that we could be as compassionate and as caring but I don’t think that that makes the quest a failure; I think that’s part of it. So, I think being in my twenties, that’s sort of a time where you really work on laying down the groundwork, the foundation of who you are going to be as a person and of course that process never ends. It’s an on-going process for as long as you live, but it does feel exciting too at this time really to take time to think about what courage means to me and what kind of person I’d like to become in my life. And I think I would like to become a person who is fearless in her pursuit of her visions of the world and what I can achieve and a person with a heart that’s open to compassion and feelings that each human has inside but sometimes are , or often are, sort of under a shadow of more superficial thoughts and feelings.
I am a survivor of war in Bosnia and for [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I am a survivor of war in Bosnia and for three and a half years of my childhood, millions, millions of bombs exploded in my city. And to hear a bomb explode is an experience that can’t be explained or described because you feel it in your body. I remember just my whole body reacting to such loudness and to destruction and my heart would jump every time, millions of times and there were times when it felt like my heart could no longer take it and which sort of burst into millions of pieces. And from that perspective of someone who is a war survivor, someone who actually knows bombs personally, a bomb exploded just a few feet away from me and wounded my legs. Shrapnel just ripped through my flesh and I still have seven pieces of shrapnel left in my leg. So from my perspective a bomb is a bomb, no matter who holds it and bomb is so destructive, so it doesn’t matter in whose hands the bomb is. Bombs will always and forever be destructive. When they are used they kill millions and when they are not used they speak volumes and they still can kill people because they perpetuate the cycle of violence, hatred, they perpetuate this distrust and intimidation between nations. And I think just having them on our planet, having our funds go instead of to our education and health to building more bombs, is all preventing us from ever knowing true peace. It’s perpetuating the cycle that we are stuck in, a cycle of no peace and only intimidation of fear, war. So from my perspective, it doesn’t matter who holds the bomb, a bomb is a weapon of war and always will be.
Well, I think that the international law and [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think that the international law and all the treaties like Geneva Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the rights of a child have all been a step forward, a huge step forward for the humankind. However, it is very much frustrating and sad to see that so easily all these conventions that are supposed to protect us and protect human rights and uphold all these great values are just being trampled and violated in so many countries of the world. I remember thinking to myself as a child in Bosnia, how terrible it was that there was this convention that was supposedly supposed to protect me as a child and it didn’t. No one cared. I wondered even if people were aware of it especially the people who were violating it. So, yes, it is so frustrating to see that they don’t matter so often in the world. They have no value really in practice. But I think this should also still exist because if anything they should be our constant reminders that we have to work harder and more consistently at really trying to uphold the values that they represent and really try to someday achieve that, to live these conventions, to respect all human beings and especially children. To me, as a child of war myself, I can’t imagine how as adults, and adults who obviously have their children and who have their children’s children, how they can go on and keep warring against other nations and obviously killing and crippling and orphaning other kids. So, I think the conventions and the treaties, international law, they all need to be there and hopefully some day we will achieve them, we will actually live them.
Instead of criticizing it, I think we should [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Instead of criticizing it, I think we should come together and find solutions to grow economically and industrially and have these industrial developing nations, but not have them pollute our environment, pollute our planet so much. And, this is not just in China, but in all of the world, and the rest of the world. In China, in particular, I read that the coal industry and the emissions of sulfur dioxide that the coal industry produces are making horrific damage of our planet, of our air, their cities, so many cities in China are now polluted, just the ecosystem. And, I think we need to find more energy-efficient ways for not only China, but other countries to develop economically and industrially without damaging and destroying our natural resources. I think that coal industry is especially very much aid to global warming, which will have horrific effects on all of our planet, horrible acid rains, especially in China, but also all over the world. And, just quality of our environment, the air that we breathe, so much fog and pollution these days everywhere. So, I think we cannot keep growing economically and industrially and enjoy the growth and the money that it brings without having the insight and this consciousness of what it's doing to the resources that we are going to use as well as have to leave for our children. It seems like we so often lose sight of our environment and the fact that it's not ours to spend and waste. It's ours to preserve so that our children and their children and their children’s children can actually live in this world. So, I think we definitely need to have a much deeper look at all the development, economic and industrial that’s happening in the world and find ways to grow without destroying at the same time.
I think freedom is something that every [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think freedom is something that every individual, every person in his or her lifetime defines through his or her experiences and realizes its value. For me as a teenager growing up in the war, freedom meant so much. I remember thinking about it and thinking to myself, how easy it was to say that word, it just seemed like a simple, relatively short word to say yet how much value, how much depth and need there was in that word for me. To me freedom meant being able to go outside freely and safely and meant something simply, yet so precious, like going for a walk with my friend and getting a cone of ice cream. It meant going to school and being able to educate myself and not be deprived of any of the basic dignities of a human being. I think that is how I define my freedom and I think it is relative to where you are in the world because let’s say at the same time there is a boy or girl somewhere in a developing nation, being abused and slaved in some labor camp or by a factory manager and he was working in such poor conditions all day for no money. His fingers ache. His body aches. His back and his tears were just rolling down his cheeks and for him freedom meant being free, being a child that could spend time with his parents or his family or his friends, not having to answer to this factory owner. And then, maybe there is a child somewhere in peaceful countries, just spending time playing with her friends, eating ice cream, having the childhood that every child should have and to her perhaps she didn’t even define freedom for herself, especially at a young age, but I mean she wasn’t even aware of having that freedom because it’s so seamlessly was part of her daily life. I think, it’s sad but we as human beings don’t stop to define things that we have. We only realize their value once we lose them. So freedom for those who don’t have it, is something incredible, something most precious, something that they would give their lives for and so many people have. So I think we all in whatever country we are living, whatever experiences we have had and we are going through, we should stop and think about freedom and what it means to us and what value it holds and then we should fight for it and we should fight with all our might to preserve it.
I think there are many educational systems [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think there are many educational systems throughout the world that have proven successful and that have allowed young individuals to truly blossom and truly develop. However, I think that educational system in other countries and across the world definitely need a lot of improvement and we always need to be thinking of solutions in creative ways to reinvent our education system. As the world changes so does the need for education and the ways and the subjects that we educate our young people in. So, I think that funding -- the government funding of schools needs to increase pretty much in general across the board. It’s amazing these young people, individuals, in middle schools, elementary schools, high schools, they might not be our leaders today, but they are certainly leaders of tomorrow and they are our future. So, instead of pouring so much money in to weapons and arms and weapons that will destroy the world now and in the future, why not pour more money in to the builders of our future? People who will someday govern us and lead us hopefully into more peaceful, sustainable, stable societies. So, I think when I hear that funds are being decreased to schools and kids don’t have arts or athletics, they don’t have trips, it’s really so sad, because children and their education should never be those that get cut from the budget. In fact that should be our priority, to educate the children, to have them -- have education in all aspects of arts, athletics, they should take various trips, volunteer in different countries. I mean all kinds of things just to help them grow, to blossom into their fullest potential because they are our future. Investing in children and their education is the best thing we can do for ourselves and for the future generations, we are investing in our future.
I think that’s an excellent question, to me [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think that’s an excellent question, to me it depends how you define your wealth or how you define wealth in general. If wealth means having enough and living comfortably, but living conscientiously of how our wealth and how we receive and get our wealth influences other people, other countries, then that wealth and the pursuit of wealth should not affect other people and other countries in a way that they have to remain poor for us to become and remain wealthy. However, wealth means feeling like we never have enough. We are inspired by greed and wanting more and more and more, and not being conscientiously or even aware or even care, how it affects our planet, how it affects the rest of the people, the rest of the world, then definitely I think that wealth influences and creates this incredible imbalance of extreme wealth versus extreme poverty. It shouldn’t be that way, it should never be that way because we need to realize that when a poor country develops, it does not mean that it’s our loss, in the developed nation. Someone’s gain is not our loss. If someone gains, every one profits from it. We should see the world just as one thing not as some kind of scale that when one gets more, the other one loses. I don’t think it works like that; anyway it shouldn’t. I think the future should see our growth as a way to -- for everyone to profit and to everyone to rise above poverty levels and for the poor countries to finally be even allowed and encouraged by developed nations to truly develop. And we really should see that’s profiting all of us, that the world is developing and becoming more fair and more beautiful.
This question really made me so sad and yet [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: This question really made me so sad and yet also puzzled, because I really don’t know, I don’t know how we can have the audacity to believe that some lives are worth more than others. I really don’t know. Because to me each human life is a human life, it’s precious, no matter whether it belongs to a person that’s black, white whether he belongs to a person that’s from a developing country or developed country. Life is a life and it should be precious, it should be valued and regarded the same as anyone else’s life. So to me it’s puzzling, it’s saddening and really troublesome when some people allow themselves the audacity of believing that some lives are more worthwhile and more worth than others. They are not, life is a life and it’s precious and it should be respected.
I think the achievements of micro-finance [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think the achievements of micro-finance have been incredible and I think they have been very inspiring and give a beacon of hope that someday we can have no poverty in the world and everyone can have enough. I was just reading about micro-finance in the last couple of weeks and it's an incredible story, originally started in Bangladesh about 30 years ago by Dr. Mohammed Unis who really wanted to use his knowledge of economics and his heart and his soul to help the poorest of the poor. And, when he looked around, he realized that so many people were dying of hunger in the streets and he wanted to find a way to help them because traditional finance systems, banking systems don’t even reach that part of society. They don’t give loans or credits to people who they believe cannot pay it off. So, what he did, he gave some money to some different people in this village and they not only paid it off and used it to create whatever they were creating. They used that money to empower themselves and it was an incredible success. So, he organized and created his own bank and that’s how micro-lending or micro-financing came to be. And, I think it's an incredible system, which reaches the poorest of the poor people who would just be ignored and neglected by traditional banking systems. So, I think that definitely we should have more micro-lending or micro-financing. And, the traditional institutions that we have hopefully can realize that there is incredible diligence and trust that we should have in people who don’t have a lot, because they more than anyone want to grow, want to get themselves out of extreme poverty. So, I think that even traditional institutions should take some traits of micro-lending and hopefully become more humane to the poorest of the poor.
Well, as a woman growing up – well, actually [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, as a woman growing up – well, actually growing up in Bosnia but living now in the West, in Canada, and I have lived in the United States, I'm very hopeful about women and their success in society. I think, we’ve come a long way and I think we’ve come a long way because of incredible women, role models of the past and present who continue to engage in all aspects of our society and excel and show their intelligence, their courage, their capability. I think we are on the right track, we are on the right path, but I think we need to keep going and truly encourage one another. As woman we are an incredible force and I think we need to first of all make sure that clichés about women not being capable enough or as capable as men, or courageous, or strong as them, we need to no longer perpetuate those, in fact we need to prove ourselves and we are. So, we need to encourage one another to truly excel in our uniqueness and gifts and prove that we are extremely strong, capable and intelligent, as we are. However, thinking all that and the positivity of it, I also realize that women status in, you know, position in society wildly varies from country to country. And I think that in some countries women are more at disadvantage than others. So I think women from all over the world need to create a sort of a global forum or ways to communicate and connect and learn from each other, inspire each other, women who have come a long way in their country can inspire and educate those that are still fighting for some rights that we already have. Bottom line is we should empower one another, and I think we are in the right path, we just need to keep walking strong and assured that in our duty, in our courage, in our capability.
Well, inevitably with violence and with [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, inevitably with violence and with armed resistance you have human loss, you have innocent people so often, mostly children and women suffering, either getting wounded, losing their loved ones or even getting killed. So, I don’t think that armed violence, that wars are the way to solve our problems. I think that peaceful solutions have to be found and if we, all of us, even at this table, let alone the whole world, come together and put our minds and hearts into finding truly creative and peaceful solutions to end conflicts, I absolutely think that we could. We just have to have a genuine interest and genuine want to find a peaceful solution. We have to believe in peace to achieve peace. And so often I think we just discard that as even a possibility. We right away go with armed conflicts and war and it destroys, it destructs, and it is so much easier to destroy than it is to, it takes years, far many more years that it took to destroy to actually heal if ever. And so it is not a way to heal the world, to better the world. War is the way to destroy the world. So we absolutely have to find alternative ways to war and violence, peaceful solutions and we can if we put our minds and hearts to it.
I think definitely that we as human beings [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think definitely that we as human beings turn to addictive, destructive behavior not only because it’s there and because we do it, but because yes, I think that that shows and tells us something more about our state of being within ourselves and yes our relationship with the world, with the rest of our family or with our community, with the people that we interact with. So, I do think that the drug addiction problem is definitely more about other things than just drugs. It’s a deeper issue, it’s a human issue and I myself have never been addicted to anything or dabbled into drugs, so I might not be an authority in someway, but I just think that yes perhaps we all have a lot of work to do within ourselves, to fill up some gaps and holes that perhaps we developed throughout our lives due to our experiences whether we feel rejected or somehow alone. Even in a room full of people and in the entire world of our sisters and brothers, sometimes we can end up feeling depressed and alone and disconnected and then we seek to find very short term pleasure and escape from that loneliness and from those feelings. To me it seems like often times we want to run away from pain and from suffering and that’s part of life, isn’t it? We have to feel our bodies and we have to feel our hearts and minds and they often hurt and the pictures we see, the visions we see in the world as our reality are not pretty often. They are filled with despair, with hunger, with poverty, with lack of opportunity, but I think that the solution is to work within oneself to help one another, to connect with other people, I think there is hope in that.
Our responsibility is immense I think and [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Our responsibility is immense I think and not only because we as citizens of more developed countries can, but also because we should feel morally and humanely compelled to help millions of our fellow human beings who are dying of this treatable and preventable disease. So, I definitely think that the world’s responsibility to end AIDS in Africa is huge and we have so many ways that we can help people of Africa. One would be to just give more funds so that we can create more AIDS prevention campaigns that include education programs and media campaigns. People just need to be educated about contraception and ways that they can prevent getting that disease. Another one is for pharmaceutical companies to work on lowering the prices of these drugs. Africans have proven that they are using the drugs properly and they are creating an incredible effect on the people with AIDS. They are capable of returning to their jobs, returning to normal life and having their families supported by them and living a normal life. So there is no reason that we shouldn’t keep helping them and keep the drugs from being too expensive for them. So definitely I think pharmaceutical companies should work to lower the prices, yet raise the availability of the drugs because so often the drugs can sometimes be a dollar -- bit more than a dollar or much more than a dollar, but I think often times Africans save up enough for this drug, but then the lower price drugs are not available, but the more expensive ones are and then they can’t afford to pay for this much needed medicine. Also, debt cancelation, if debt was canceled, Africa and African countries would have more funds to pour into their health services, AIDS prevention campaigns, education and that again would help AIDS. Another one fair trade, because fair trade would allow Africa and the people to grow, to join in on the economic industrial development. To simply grow as nations of people and again that would help. So, I think when we look at Africa and our responsibility, it should be so clear to us that we have to help in so many grounds. If we have to look further than just our morally and humane grounds then we could look at just instability anywhere in the world affects all of us and we want a stable world. We want a world where we all feel safe and healthy. And I guess at the end I just want to say on moral grounds alone we should be looking to help them and we should stop thinking of African people as sort of “the others,” they are our family and we need to help them.
My heroes are people who live their life [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: My heroes are people who live their life authentically, courageously, compassionately, humanely. I have a lot of role models who are obviously people who we all know of, who are famous people, who have been written in the past and in the present, but I don’t even have to go and name them because there are so many of those people whose names I don’t know and whose lives and names will not to be mentioned in our history books, that are also heroes. People like, in Africa or other developing countries who in face of such struggle of poverty, conflict, hunger, disease like AIDS, they all live with such dignity, lives with such courage and inspire me. People like that are my heroes. They are not people that I know. They are not famous, but they absolutely are heroes of everyday. Also people like my citizens in Sarajevo during the war who regardless of our ethnicities and difference in religion came together as one human family and shared a bottle of water, or a piece of bread in the worse of times, in the bloodiest of times. So it’s just everyday people who are inspiring me, who are my heroes. I meet them nearly on everyday basis and it's amazing to be inspired by my fellow human beings and very inspiring and uplifting because it allows me to realize that we can all achieve sort of the highest standard of humanity because we all have it within us.
I think there is a definite ecological limit [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think there is a definite ecological limit to economic growth because right now, our industries, our economies, it is just the growth and the industrialization of countries not just in China, but everywhere, is destroying the world. It is destroying our planet, polluting our cities, the children and all of us are having a hard time breathing, so many people are dying because of the air quality, and they can’t breathe normally. We are polluting our water and water is our most precious perhaps possession and not everyone even has access to water, so even the water that we do have we are polluting. And then the global warming is obviously affecting water with droughts and higher temperatures. So there is definitely ecological limit to our growth in economy and industry and we must decide and realize very soon that we can’t keep growing industrially and economically without the insight and conscientiousness as to what it is doing to our environment. Because we can make money, we can create things, but we sure can’t make a planet once we completely destroy it. So I think our priorities need to change. We need to find alternative ways of growth so that we can preserve what we have still and prevent further destruction.
I think the power lies within us and in our [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think the power lies within us and in our hands, because we’ve created this tool, the internet and we and only we manage it really. So, I think that yes, I guess it can be a scary thing, it’s overwhelming, it has a lot of information, but bottom line is we created it and we have the power to have it serve us. Serve us to educate us, inform us, entertain us, bring us closer to people, help us communicate with people. So I think that we shouldn’t be intimated or controlled by internet. I myself use the internet to stay in touch with people that I love, stay in touch in a very fast way with them and communicate in a very fast way with people that I work with and communicate with on all different subjects and obviously I use it for purposes of information and education. So, I think it’s an amazing tool if we approach it intelligently and critically and obviously internet and safety of internet in homes especially with children in home is very important issue and as adults, as parents, as guardians, we have to make sure that we are responsible in that way and make sure that internet isn’t in someway endangering our children. But other than that I think that we have to be obviously selective of information we receive and what we do with it, but again it’s just a wealth of possibilities, wealth of knowledge and information like never before and we should definitely have it serve us and benefit us.
This is a very interesting question. I [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: This is a very interesting question. I think that we are so often tempted to sort of be inactive and yes, dependent upon so many technological gadgets that we have now in the world; so many of them that they, yes, clutter our world, our daily life and we become nearly servants to them. It is interesting, I guess, we can become, yes, domesticated by technology. We can become nearly a human version of pets if we allow it. If we let it upset our balance and our natural sense of self and natural way of how we ought to be doing things. By that I mean that we should have a balance of, yes, using technology to serve us, to benefit us, to allow us the ease of performing certain actions, but at the same time we should rely on ourselves, because we as human beings are so capable of completing so many tasks and have been for centuries before we came up with the latest gadgets. So I think it’s just a question of what their place is and bottom line is we are the creators of all of the technology of every gadget in the world, and we should never have it own us or domesticate us but rather serve us and benefit us. And I guess that’s a very hard balance to strike. I guess it’s an everyday struggle to just find what works for us but definitely cluttering our daily lives with more and more technology seems to not do any good to all of us. It seems not to simplify our lives and make them more serene but rather makes us less capable because we don’t have to, we don’t have to challenge ourselves, we don’t have to sustain ourselves in the way that we had to centuries ago. So I guess, like anything, it can be both. It is our decision to have it own us or have it serve us.
I really like these ecological questions [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I really like these ecological questions because unlike some other questions that, you know, more philosophical and everything, environmental questions are really easily answered because there are always so many things that we can do and do our part to save our ecosystem, to save our environment. So it’s just a matter of really understanding the gravity of the situation and then really genuinely deciding and committing to do something about it. So for communities and for our personal homes, I thought of definitely recycling, so recycling all products that are recyclable, aluminium cans, glass, paper, plastic. Also supporting local farmers and specifically organic local farmers, because not only because they are local, there will be less need for driving and transportation of the foods, and also organic because organic farmers do not use any artificial, you know, like pesticides or synthetic sort of add-ons to the soil that degrade the soil and pollute our drinking water. Also in the communities, you can drive less and make sure that you have public transport that is very useful. If you live far away from work, perhaps it’s a good time to consider moving closer to your work so that you drive less and use even public transport less. Perhaps then biking or walking is the way to go. Planting trees and preserving the trees that we have, the parks that we have, and I think it’s important to encourage young people like people in schools as well as in youth organizations to get involved with being really conscientious of the environment so they can also clean up the green areas and plant trees and forests. Also, contacting the government and asking them to create cleansing projects or cleaning projects for the local lakes or rivers. And finally I thought about local industries and how inevitably they pollute the air, perhaps the most. So what we need to do is just make them comply with more stringent environmental regulations.
We must make sure to cleanse the waters that [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: We must make sure to cleanse the waters that we have polluted and we have to reduce our energy consumption and we have to reduce our pollution, because inevitably our air is first to go and definitely even our daily activities impact the environment. We should also really try to strike a balance to see that everyone has equal access to water, because definitely when one country or some countries have a monopoly on water and others are starving and thirsting for water, there is definitely chance of conflict and violence. So what we need to do is pour more funds into countries that don’t have access to water and create infrastructure that will allow them to have water, and then as I said as humanity, as human kind, we must start now preserving our water, preserving the purity of our water and reducing our pollution.
Well, when I read a little bit about the [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, when I read a little bit about the long emergency, it’s definitely a frightening scenario with all our problems, the ones that we didn’t really heed or spend enough time and funds to create solutions for the ones that we have been completely neglecting, all crashing down on us at the same time. It’s definitely a scary scenario and the one that requires our genuine and strong resolve and commitment to make changes now. Otherwise, it will happen. Things we can do, I think, first of all, all people need to be more educated and aware of the gravity of the situation of our environment as well as human rights violations, conflicts, hunger, disease. And first of all what we all can do is just reduce pollution and reduce our energy consumption. We can cleanse our environment clean what we have left of our water, nature, our forests. And we need to spend more funding on working on to eradicate hunger and poverty and to find cures for diseases such as AIDS, Alzheimer’s, cancer instead of spending it more and more on weapons. So first of all we need much more of a genuine and strong resolve and commitment to help our planet, to help the world. And secondly our priority needs to be in improving our planet, not further destroying it.
Now more than ever, all of us have more [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Now more than ever, all of us have more access to television, to information, to radio and its interesting now more than ever that we have that access we seem mostly somehow disinterested or at least disinterested in some really worthwhile projects and worthwhile information. It seems like we are nearly overwhelmed by it and oversaturated in it. So although there are so many programs that are entertaining and obviously such variety of them that I think they suit every taste and every want of what people would really like to entertain themselves with. That’s okay, but I think that the television has to become more and more of a powerful tool to give voice to those that are voiceless, to give us stories that are not given priority. And by that one of the examples I’d like to give is children. I really think that television does not give enough voice to children. To children in conflict, children that are suffering from hunger, poverty, and disease. I think that there are so many worthwhile stories that we are not hearing or that we are tuning out if they are the little of them that are there, and I really think that we should focus on some of the more worthwhile projects as well. So, I think television is a powerful tool, but it’s also obviously an entertaining tool. So it can be both, I guess we just need to find more of a balance. And of course we have a choice what we watch, but I really think that children and their stories that the power of a child and his or her message. The power of realizing what our actions as adults are doing to children. I think that’s also powerful that it should be and sort of our priority in the forefront of our minds and what we see.
This is an excellent question and what I [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: This is an excellent question and what I like about it is that it is asking for really concrete action inspired things that I can tell you and I actually want to thank this person who asked this question because in the past several weeks that I have been thinking about this question made me also think every time I wanted to dispose of something or turn up the air-conditioning, it has kind of made me second think about whether I should do that or how I should that. So each one of us, absolutely everyone who lives off our planet and lives on the planet can and should do something to prevent and reduce the effects of global warming and that is the thing about global warming as much the statistics and the facts about global warming are extremely scary and terrible and our planet is definitely being damaged continuously, but I think it is also hopeful that it all lies within us and with us. So each person can help reduce the effects of global warming. In your home, you can reduce the consumption of energy and by that I mean you can buy energy efficient light bulbs, energy efficient home appliances and electronics. You can not use so much your air conditioning, your heating systems and you can buy ones that aren’t consuming so much energy. You can also use solar power if you live in a place where sunshine and light and heat is plentiful. You can recycle all your plastic, aluminum, the cans, the paper, the newspapers and you can also buy in bulk which would eliminate packaging. I would say as well, we should all drive less and that would definitely create less pollution and we can bike, walk or use public transportation. And one of the really great things that is more and more in the market are obviously hybrids or cars that use combination of electricity as well as gasoline, so that could definitely be a way to go and that would reduce pollution and also electric cars, completely on electricity. They are not available right now, I don’t believe but something to look for. And just being mindful and conscious of what we do in our daily life. As I said this question made me in the past weeks kind of think twice before I dispose of a magazine or a newspaper. If there isn’t a place where I can dispose of an empty water bottle, I just carry it with me until there is one. So just knowing that sometimes we think well, if I put this here or put that there it doesn’t matter, it is just one bottle or one newspaper, but really it does matter because it all adds up. So the power is with us to reduce global warming.
This is an excellent question and I think we [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: This is an excellent question and I think we all must find ways to grow our economies and our industries without destroying our planet, and it’s not just the rapidly developing countries like India and China, but all of us and in fact the developed nations should serve as role models. Right now, we are over-consuming and that is not a good role model for all the developing nations who want to do the same and who are doing the same by just overgrowing and their industries polluting our environment. So I think the change has to come from everyone. Everyone has to reduce their consumption, everyone has to find more energy efficient ways to grow their industries and their economies, because we can’t compensate for each other’s consumption. We simply all have to curb our consumption.
Well, I think architecture has an incredible [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think architecture has an incredible impact on our communities, on creating them as well as sustaining them. And environmentally, I think it has lot to do with sustainable construction, and by that I mean just minimizing the use of non-renewable materials such as steel, brick, aluminium installation and instead using renewable resources. Also, it’s all about the environment. When we create something and when there is a community being built in a place, there needs to be a real conscious effort to make that building really fit in harmony with the nature and not degrade the nature but rather even enrich it. Also, inside the building, the use of energy, making energy efficient cooling and heating systems, perhaps using solar power if that’s possible, using appliances and electronics that are energy efficient, lighting that’s energy efficient, all that plays a huge role in how architecture and design affects our environment. Economically, I think, again, if environment is saved by us consuming less, so is our pocket, because if we use more energy efficient systems inside our homes, inside our buildings, inevitably we will save the environment because we are polluting and consuming less but we are also saving a cost for ourselves. Also, architecting and designing buildings that are safe and good and long lasting minimizes any need for repair and just keeping up of the building. And socially I think architecture really sets the tone of a community because by designing really open communities, communities that have a lot of space where people can keep together…
I had a lot of fun with this question [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I had a lot of fun with this question because it just allows me to let my mind and heart be unbridled and just think of the future that I would want. So I am actually going to read a piece of prose that I have written as an answer to this question. “In my mind and heart, our future looks promising and bright. We all work together in improving every aspect of our planet. We consume less and pollute less instead we respect the nature and all of its blessings. We use our country’s funds to better the environment. We all eat healthily and we can afford organic pesticides-free delicious food. We live in peace with all countries and everyone is tolerant and embracing of each other’s religions and spiritual practices. No one is killed or wounded. No child goes hungry, loses a limb in a war, or becomes an orphan. In fact, we adults regain the innocence, goodness and the unbridled spirit we once had as children. We treat each others as brothers and sisters because we are one human family. There is fair trade and the once underdeveloped countries are prospering and reaping the benefits of their own labor. No country is spending its precious resources to build weapons or intimidate other countries by growing an ever expanding arsenal. We realize that we all want the world of no hunger, no war, no disease, and no poverty. Then together, we achieve it.”
Well, I think it can be both, mass media, [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think it can be both, mass media, all the newspapers, magazines, television, radio everything that’s educating us, entertaining us, informing us. It can be both. It can educate us, it can entertain us, it can do everything we want it to do, but it can also overwhelm us, clutter our thoughts, clutter our daily life and not really service, but rather just sort of create confusion and create a lot of clutter. So, it is just a question of how we use mass media and how much we allow it to become a part of our life and how much we allow it to sort of influence our own centeredness and our own balance in the world.
I think it is all about creating and [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think it is all about creating and striving constantly to create a balance in the world. Because there are again such extremes of rich and the poor, educated and completely uneducated people who really want to get educated but don’t have the opportunity. So I think some of the concrete ways is number one, cancellation of debt to all the developing countries because all the money that is being soaked up in their debts and the paying off of their debts could lead and go to their education and educating their children, all of their children, especially young girls who often don’t go to school and also going into their health services and education and media campaigns about AIDS and prevention of AIDS and other diseases. Also, reducing the vast spending on the funds for arms and weapons industry because again we are investing in an industry whose primarily priority is to destroy, right? So if we invested that money into education and into health services then inevitably we would improve our world.
I think this is something all of us can [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think this is something all of us can improve and work on. We need to be more open to other people, open to experiencing other people and their perspectives, listening to their stories and I think that makes a really deep, powerful connection. I know, Nadia, what you mean, that you know so often in a room full of people we can feel so alone, so disengaged, and disconnected, and feel like no one really has common ground with us, but that is all a question of somehow letting other things less important things clutter and overshadow our common humanity and so there is definitely possibility of that connection. We just need to open ourselves up more toward each other. Here today, I definitely don’t feel alone because there are hundreds of kindred souls, people who are great thinkers, people who are compassionate, and people who have free thought, and who are willing to express it and share it and I definitely feel that energy and that togetherness and unity. Look at us, we all come from all different parts of the world, different perspectives, different traditions and ways of thinking even. I think one way that we can connect more with people is just realizing that small everyday things are those that connect us the most. It is not thes grand gestures. It is just the small everyday life and one lesson that I learned from an incredible role model of mine, an amazing woman, Mother Teresa. She said once, “you cannot do great things in life, we can only do small things with great love.” She said “smile at least five times a day at someone you don’t really want to smile at but you do it for peace.” So if I go for a walk with my dog or with my husband, I will absolutely commit myself to smiling at least five times at someone, a neighbor, a complete stranger and whether they say hello back or not, or smile back or not, it’s a peace building exercise. It is something that brings positivity into the world. It proves that peace is built with such small gestures.
I think that internet can truly serve as the [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think that internet can truly serve as the door to all the opportunities available, to all the possibilities available to us. And in low income communities, it can serve first of all as a source of -- incredible source of information through all the websites, encyclopedias for definitions and just looking up basic information as well as just all kinds of personal information. There are so many websites where people share their knowledge, their experiences. So that can be very educational. Also there are so many opportunities like job postings, websites about job requirements, education requirements, degrees so all that can serve low income communities to educate themselves about the world out there and what they can do by educating themselves, what’s available out there. I think the internet is an incredible tool. We just need to approach it intelligently and critically, know where to look or just explore for a while and learn what sites are – ones that we can use for many different things and I think it’s definitely a door that can open a world of possibilities.
In my room back in my home, I have a lot of [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: In my room back in my home, I have a lot of images, inspirational quotes and sayings taped on my wall and surrounding me in my environment. And I do that because I want constant reminders of my beliefs, things that I believe in, that inspire me, my visions and my dreams. So, my environment is my constant reminder to keep connecting with myself, with my heart, with my mind, with my vision, with my core. And one of my favorite sayings is by Martha Kagan and it says "listen to your heart above all other voices." And I realize that even though my whole room is so abundant with other people’s sayings that are so beautiful and beautiful pictures and images that inspire me, that move me, that touch me, they are really all there to connect me with my own source of inspiration, one which I should depend on, my heart. Because I think that when heart is pure, it is all that I ever need to inspire me. It has all the knowledge, all the love, all the compassion that I need in order to be sort of the best person that I can be. So, I think it's my heart and just the old soul that we all have within ourselves that we need to connect with and explore all our lives, but apart from that I guess it is just also the knowledge and the experience of other amazing people who share it and I put it on my walls as an inspiration to me.
I have definitely found that conspicuous [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I have definitely found that conspicuous consumption and the presence of mass media and the presence of logos and labels and just everything that kind of promotes different labels and promotes different clothes and electronics and ways of life, trying to sell us a lifestyle, trying to sell us something that we supposedly don’t have. It is all very powerful and I found even from my own experience just walking downtown or walking in the mall or walking anywhere in a city, it’s very powerful and often overwhelming. I think it kind of creates this urge, and surge of desire and little bit of greed and just kind of wanting and it starts really powerfully changing your thought process and you start thinking well do I need this, I really want this and things like that. It’s quite a trial, I think, and struggle. So from what I found to be a solution is to really kind of connect with yourself, to connect with your inner self, your core and I’ve often found that I am happiest, some more serene when I realize that I don’t need so much. I really don’t need so much, I might at a time at that sort of weak moment and overwhelmed moment want more than what I have, but I really don’t need more and often making that decision and coming to that realization brings me even more happiness and serenity. So buying products and having products, there is nothing wrong with that, it’s a way of life, we need to sustain ourselves, but there is definitely a point where we over do it. And I think that’s when we need to sort of even close our eyes and really connect with ourselves, with our core that knows the best. That knows what’s best for us and then just act upon that, act upon that deeper self, deeper knowledge.
Well, I deeply believe that each one of us [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I deeply believe that each one of us is capable of connecting with the nature and realizing that we are part of the nature and that every other living organism is part of nature and not only that but that we are all contributing and that we are all interconnected and interdependent. I think with that realization very naturally comes respect for all life forms, for our environment, for animals, for the whole ecosystem. And for myself just taking long walks in the nature, appreciating nature, and doing yoga, meditating, thinking about things and my impact on the environment have all brought me so much happiness, peace and serenity and I really feel that when I am connected with nature, I feel best, I feel happiest and most peaceful. And when I forget about nature and don’t take time to connect with the nature but rather am rushed or busy and sort of more surrounded with the modern world and cement, asphalt, and concrete walls, I find that something is missing inside of myself. So definitely I think we are not only capable of connecting with nature, it is absolutely necessary for us to connect with nature. And I think that once we are deeply aware inside ourselves of that connection, we are the happiest and most at peace. It is almost like the nature gives us and reminds us that we have that serenity and beauty of the nature within us that so often other things mask. So absolutely, I think that we can definitely be perceptive enough and blessed enough to feel part of nature.
Well, I think this statement is a sad [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think this statement is a sad example of the state of our world. We can more easily make something, manmade something than we can just having something that our nature produces. That means that we are destroying our nature. And water amongst all other drinks available is the ultimate drink. It’s the most precious again, something that the nature, our planet gives us, but unfortunately through our practices, we are destroying it. So I think what we must do to prevent this from happening, because we should all have access to clean water is number one, we need to preserve the water resources we do have by just simply reducing our energy consumption and our pollution. We need to cleanse the water that we have polluted. So our lakes and rivers, our oceans, we just need to create more resources of drinking, and we need to reduce all sorts of pollution, especially industries and cars that are producing the majority of pollution in our world and that will reduce the effects of global warming, which unfortunately threaten to dry up the resources that we do have.
Well, I haven’t never had the blessing of [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I haven’t never had the blessing of visiting Africa, but having heard lot of stories about the people in Africa from my friends and other people who’ve written stories and books about Africa and African people, what I know is that in spite and in face of all those struggles that they are going through, hunger, poverty, AIDS, struggles that have for centuries plagued their countries, African people remain so dignified in their struggle. They preserve their humanity, their dignity. They’re people who care about their communities, care about their homes, their children, their families and it seems to me like it’s amazing, one of the poorest continents and some poorest countries in the world that have so little seem to be able to offer us the most. They give the most. And no matter whether people go in as volunteers and actually bring supplies and food and school supplies and things like that, they always seem to come out of Africa saying that they received more then they gave. And I think that say something about the depth of the people there, and their wealth that far supersedes sort of the superficial wealth of owning things, owning money, and owning possessions. And I think, that’s just so inspiring and I think that should further inspire us to help these people, help the people who have such spiritual and every other wealth except the wealth they can preserve them, that can help them have lives where they are not dying of disease, hunger and poverty. So, I think that, they’re just simply an inspiration to the rest of us and we should take them as an inspiration to use the realization that life can be beautiful even without such earthly possessions and use to it enrich our lives. In developed nations, we seem to have everything that we need and everything that we want, but do we really have that wealth that African people seem to have. I think that we can help each other and share in all kinds of different wealth.
Well, I think we can definitely work on [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think we can definitely work on creating this balance by simply nurturing and supporting and celebrating the different cultures. Because, I don’t think that having them in cities or countries and so close together that that has to mean that we become the same, that we sort of blend together. In fact by celebrating and nurturing each other’s cultures and participating in each others cultures and learning about the other people, I think we are only strengthening the cultures and strengthening our community. It’s sort of that example of a salad bowl where you have a delicious dish with so many tastes and textures and none of the ingredients has to sort of come into a mush. In fact, they don’t, they preserve their uniqueness in texture and flavor and that’s I think how we should also work with our communities and our cultures. Every part makes the whole and every part is precious and unique. So, I think just celebrating and nurturing the cultures that we have and passing them on to the younger generations will assure that we have the world that’s diverse and yet tolerant in embracing of all the diversity.
Well, I think that is a perfect question for [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think that is a perfect question for the end of this incredible experience. I think that with events such as this one, amazing experiments, amazing events that bring together an amazing amount of people who are answering questions in that, asking more questions and compelling and hopefully inspiring other people to answer questions and question. I think that’s the way that we can involve each other, involve the world to listen, to question, to dialogue, to get answers. Today, hundreds of people are listening, thousands perhaps and more on the internet and that is how we have achieved it today and in the future as well. So there should be more events like this, there should be more networks, and forums, and conferences and events where people freely voice their opinions, their answers, their questions. And I think that we will grow as humankind incredibly if we continue communicating, continue educating ourselves, and each other through just simple power of the words.
The answer to this question came to me from [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: The answer to this question came to me from my own experience, because during the war, being a child during the war and growing up in the war which hurt me very much, is not only the bombs and the bullets and the frightening experiences I’ve had and the terror of everyday and the deprivation of every pretty much basic need like food and water and freedom, but also what hurt me at that time was, that I felt that children had no voice. I very much felt alone and like children really didn’t matter and here were all those adults who are waging wars, not asking us anything and just destroying our childhoods and wounding us and killing our parents and killing us. And one way that I came out of that sort of imprisonment of my own voice was one day I called the national radio station and I offered to read some of my poetry on the radio. And at first, the radio personality was kind of baffled by that, so she caught her breath and finally said, “well, Nadja sure, I’ll even record you.” So, she recorded me that day and she kept replaying my poetry over and over again. And it was really empowering because all of a sudden in this imprisoned city, I found a way to have my voice be free. All of a sudden it leapt on to the airways and into a whole country of people, my fellow citizens, and my fellow human beings who were suffering just like I was. And I ended up having my own radio show during the war and that was a venue for me, a vehicle to feel free and to feel like a really normal human being despite nothing being normal in Sarajevo. So, I think that the most unreported story is a story about and from children, especially children in war and children in conflict or children in poverty and hunger because so many times we hear from politicians, from experts, from adults, but we don’t hear so much from children. We simply hear statistics and we hear that children have died or children are dying of hunger, but are we really listening and are we really hearing children stories? I don’t think we are listening and I don’t think we’re hearing as much as we should. So, I definitely think that children should be our priority and media should concentrate more in really telling us personal stories. Because, I think deep down, sometimes we have trouble connecting with certain people because they are from different traditions or different races or cultures and countries. But if we see and hear children, it will be easier and it is easier for us because no matter who we are, and where we come from, all of us were once children. So, I think children are our common ground, our common language and we really should hear from them. And I think that that will open our hearts and make us understand more and have more compassion and hopefully feel more compelled to help them.
Well, I think it all lies in the fact that [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, I think it all lies in the fact that the two answers come from two different and unique perspectives. I mean, today, we are here with 111, 110 plus myself, different perspectives, different people with different traditions, different walks of life, different races and it’s just amazing. I think there is a lot of beauty here, there is a lot of opportunity and freedom here perhaps that’s why it is called the Table of Free Voices. And our lives, our experiences, our traditions, all influence the way we think and what we come up with as our thought, as our answers, so I am sure we are all giving all kinds of different answers and that is beautiful and no answer is wrong answer. I think that attitude and that belief has to change in our minds if we believe that two different answers can’t be alright. In fact, I think the more answers we have, the more different and unique perspectives we have, the more opportunity to find solutions for our world, for the state of our world.
Well, as a girl, a victim of war, growing up [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, as a girl, a victim of war, growing up in Bosnia, I remember feeling so lonely and feeling so disappointed in the world, my fellow human beings that I thought had forgotten us and I realized that it seemed like people were thinking of Bosnia as just some faraway country, a country in the Balkans where people were just wanting to fight and they couldn’t help us and they couldn’t understand us and now that I am an adult living in the US and Canada, I have come to realize that that is a huge problem. You see, we must stop thinking of ourselves as some kind of just one unit and then the others as people that aren’t connected with us, whose destinies, whose conflicts, whose struggles don’t concern us. I think the main realization that we have to come to is that all of the people in the world are a family and the world is our home. And then second realization that we have to come to is the fact that no matter what differences we have amongst us like race, religion, tradition, language, all of those differences pale in comparison to our humanity and to our common dream. We all want to live in a world where we have enough to feed ourselves, to feed our families. We all want a brighter future for ourselves where we will be free people that can follow fiercely their visions and their dreams and with that common dream we should come together and walk with that dream until we achieve it. So, I guess my piece of knowledge would be first of all to realize that we are all interconnected, that we are all a family and then realize that that family is trudging together through the mud and the struggles through the darkness and finally together, only together can achieve that dream of a peaceful world.
I think that’s an excellent question. It’s [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think that’s an excellent question. It’s ironic, yes, that we create things to save time and then somehow they make our lives more stressful, and we feel like it’s just a clutter of mess and we don’t have time. I think there is no need to resist technology, but there is definite need to be very choosy about technology and very responsible about using technological gadgets. It’s a question of what we need to enhance our life versus what we don’t need and what clutters our life. And I think we all need to simplify our lives and by that I don’t mean we need to take our cellphones and throw them in the river or just deprive ourselves of all technology. I don’t think that, but I do think that we need to simplify, and simply choose what serves us and then what doesn’t and just choose those things that really enhance our life, that allows us more time with things that really matter, like spending times with our family or having time to keep healthy and work on ourselves both physically, mentally, and emotionally. These technological gadgets often so clutter our life they become our life because our thoughts are always on them. Let’s not forget to bring them, thinking about not forgetting them, somewhere losing them, how to use them. They intimidate us often and none of those are good things. They are actually very negative. We need to find way to just use technology that serves us and then pass on the ones that don’t. For me, I have found that simplifying my life and just using deep breathing, meditation, reading books, doing yoga as a way to balance my other part of my life, which is using the internet, you know, being surrounded by technology, television, computers, just finding that balance of being a human being and being very natural as well as modern. I guess it's always finding and striking that balance.
It is hard even to imagine what kind of [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: It is hard even to imagine what kind of amazing things we could have done with those funds being used for some really amazing things. We could have eradicated poverty and hunger. I think we would have far more funds to use to help the poor, help the hungry, and save so many lives, million of lives that we could have saved and also found better solutions, more sustainable solutions for these problems and thus eradicated them. We could have invested in education, in our children, in our future. We could have funded schools all across the world and had children with far more education that would open up more opportunities for them and they are, you know, today our leaders, aren’t they? And I guess they would be far more educated and who knows what kind of possibilities could have happened and opened for us today if they had better education. Also healthcare, today healthcare would be better. If we used those funds to make better access to all people for healthcare, again it would have saved lives, people who today and in the past 50 years did not have access to healthcare and who just simply died of disease. We could have invested in our environment. Our world today is so polluted and we are suffering, our health is suffering because of that, so we could have invested in making sure that our industries are more energy efficient and that we can industrially and economically grow without destroying our environment. We could have funded research for cures today, perhaps AIDS, Alzheimer’s, cancer, all kinds of different diseases wouldn’t even exist. We could have helped developing nations to rise above their poverty and today the world would be a more fair, beautiful place. There are so many ways that we could have used the money, but bottom line is we would have used them to improve our planet instead of further destroy it, abuse it, and use it.
I thought about this question a lot. [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I thought about this question a lot. Although I am not a parent yet, I think it is an important question that all of us should ask ourselves. I spend a lot of time teaching children music and they are of all ages. And I have noticed that even as their teacher not only their parent but – not their parent but their teacher, I seem to have an impact on who they are and who are they going to become. I think we are more powerful than we think when it comes to children. They are very impressionable young people. And I think I have come up with three things, values that they should be taught. The first one is self-respect and by that I mean a strong sense of self. So, I think we should just encourage a young person or child to really explore him or herself through just different experiences, different ways of communicating and expressing him or herself through the arts or sports, visiting other countries. So, I think that is important because once they get a firm sense of self respect, we can move to the second value which is respect for others. And I think that one would come naturally as soon as a child has a healthy sense of self. I think then respect for others would come naturally because he or she would realize that another child, another person has the same sense of self as well that has to be respected. And thirdly respect for the nature and for the planet. So a sense of his or her own impact on the planet that he or she lives so that whenever there is consumption there is also conscientious and responsible thinking of what kind of impact that is making on the planet. I think there are so many other things that obviously we can teach to our children, but respect for oneself, for the other, and for the planet, I think those are really three great foundations.
I am sure all of us can come up with [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I am sure all of us can come up with worthy subjects that the arts should address. I myself was a student of the arts sometime ago, not long ago. I was studying vocal performance and theater and in that kind of environment, I noticed that when arts were the vehicle for expression of current issues, expression of the stories of the voiceless, of the oppressed, of people who couldn’t tell their own stories. It became such a powerful vehicle for social change, for awareness. So, it wasn’t just arts for the arts sake and it wasn’t even arts for the entertainment sake. It was very much thought provoking and inspiring of empathy and compassion. So, I think that just using arts as vehicle to tell the untold stories, to give the voiceless a voice. I think that’s a powerful subject that arts should express and focus on more. Because then I think that they are also compelling us to action because as soon as there is compassion, there is true genuine sort of touching of one’s heart and one’s soul. And when something is really thought provoking, I think that there is more possibility that it will move us and compel us into action and to helping other human beings. I think in my life the stories that I have seen through theater, through musical performances that were about oppressed women and children, especially children suffering in conflicts, or children dying of hunger and poverty, have been so moving to me and definitely have compelled me to learn more about those specific individual specific stories and become more aware as a human being. So arts inspiring deeper awareness, arts widening our knowledge and deepening our compassion for one another…
All kinds of people from all different walks [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: All kinds of people from all different walks of life, different races, different nationalities, different countries, move me when I see and feel that they act out of courage, they act out of compassion, out of love. They seem to be people who are really in peace with themselves as well as with other people. They seem like they are the people who achieve this perfect balance within themselves and then allow that to happen in the world as well. They are intelligent, conscientious, conscious of their impact on the world, and how they treat other people and how they treat the nature. And I know that they sound perfect, but I have met so many people like that, and they are not perfect, they are just people who have found a connection with their core and are actually allowing their humanity to shine in its brightest light in the most brilliant way and are really as humane as we are all meant to be. So, they are the people who just, I guess, all their life, throughout everyday, have taken time to connect with the deepest core of themselves and then simply act out of that place. And it is my wish that I can become one of those people someday because they truly move me. And there is no specific sort of person I’d like to mention because they are so many people and it’s regardless of their nationality, their name, their race. They are just people who are really living in the beauty of their humanity.
I think it’s very natural and very human [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think it’s very natural and very human that we are proud of our nationality. I think it’s just a very natural thing to respect it and want to nurture it, and preserve it, and I think it is necessary. I think it’s a good thing to preserve one’s roots, one’s culture, one’s tradition and be proud of it. However, I think we need to balance that with a more global feeling of belonging because otherwise we create this sense of ourselves versus the other. I think if we solely believe in our nationality or concentrate on our nationality and lose the sight of our belonging in a global world and being part of something larger that is also our larger home, then we tend to kind of just tune out the rest of the world or at least think that some of the problems or situation or state of the other countries doesn’t really affect us as much or at least when we are feeling connected with the rest of the world and see the rest of the world as our home, not just our country, our community, or our city, then I think there is more possibility that we will feel connected and care about other people and have more compassion and empathy for them. So, I think that to have a healthy sense of one’s origin and nationality, is absolutely great and it should be preserved. But before we were anything else we were human beings, we are human beings before we had any thought or realization of our nationality, or belonging or culture, we are human beings, that’s our common ground, and we should nurture that by just feeling that we’re one huge human family regardless of our borders, regardless of our nations and nationalities. I think we discover more beauty that way. It is beautiful to be proud of one’s nationality, one’s country and all the great traditions, and uniqueness that go with each country, but at the same time I think it’s even deeper and more beautiful to understand how we fit in the grander sort of macrocosmic way of things and that’s so much bigger than all of us. We together create the world. So, my hope is that we can be both, we can be proud of our nationality as well as our belonging in the human family.
Unfortunately, the mass of our food is [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Unfortunately, the mass of our food is produced by conventional farming and by that I mean, use of chemicals, artificial additives and preservatives, and also pesticides. All of that affects the quality and the nutritional value of our food. Also there is a practice called monocropping, which means that the crops aren’t rotated throughout the season, so only one crop is being replanted, replanted on the same soil, which degrades the soil of its minerals. So again the products of fruits and vegetables have less nutritional value and thus taste less delicious. Of course apart from fruits and vegetables, other, like canned goods and other foods have lots of again artificial additives like colors and flavors and things that we can’t even pronounce. So all of that I think adds to lack of nutrition as well as lack of taste. When fruits and vegetables are imported from really far away, they have to travel miles and miles to get to us. So they are often harvested when they are green and then there is something called artifical ripening. You should check it out, but when that happens again, it can be quite dangerous and it can make the fruit taste bad. The alternative to this is organic farming, because it does not use artifical additives, it doesn’t use pesticides, and it definitely doesn’t degrade the soil, and most organic farmers as I read do use rotating cropping. So that means that they are not using monocropping, they are actually rotating crops and making sure that the soil isn’t degraded and in fact it’s actually supporting the ecosystem and supporting and enriching the soil. About a decade ago, apart from deciding to be a vegetarian, I decided to try to eat mostly organic food and although sadly organic food is more expensive than conventionally farmed food, it is definitely better in nutrition and in value and in taste. It’s just, you know, has more vitamins, antioxidants. It’s proven that it definitely has more nutritious value. And when I eat organic food I think about how not only am I supporting my system but also the farmers who are working hard, and also the soil and my environment.
I think we can do that by just nurturing the [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think we can do that by just nurturing the uniqueness of each city and I have been in Berlin for the past two days and I’m in awe of its uniqueness. There is no way that there is a city like Berlin anywhere in the world. It’s so beautiful and it preserves its history, its painful history, its triumphant history, all of the parts of its history and it’s kind of like human beings. I mean, we are not all the same, not a single person is the same as the other person. Our experiences, our appearance, our way of talking, our language, so many aspects make us who we are and we can’t be the same. So, I know what you mean that there’re so many cities that are sort of modernizing and looking like one another, but I think – well, the cities that I have had the pleasure of visiting have certainly retained that sense of uniqueness, their culture, their history. One way that we can assure that that’s happening and that keeps happening is making sure that, we preserve the historic sites, that we preserve the history and the stories by passing them on to younger generation so that they some day as we modernize more and more and perhaps there is more danger of becoming same, the youth and the young people that are going to grow into adults have the understanding and respect for the history and for the past and for their tradition and also just celebrating unique parts in the cities. For example, in Toronto, where I am from. there are so many cultural parts of the city and one of my favorite is the Greek town or Danforth. So, every year there is a festival called Taste of the Danforth and my husband and I always go and participate in their culture and love their food and just meet the people and nourish them in that way. So, just preserving every part of every city and growing, I don’t think that there should then too much danger of actually becoming like other cities.
I think that is an excellent question. A [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: I think that is an excellent question. A young adult should be reading a lot of newspapers, magazines, even on the internet, magazines and articles about the world because it is important that this young person gets a sense of the world, of what is happening in the world, and all the current issues, all the struggles that his or her fellow human beings are going through. Also traveling, I think going on trips to different countries especially developing nations whether as a volunteer or just as a person who wants to see what other cultures are like and what their struggles are. I think that is a very powerful experience and it is not just an experience of that particular culture and of that particular country but I think through traveling and through making realization about the other people, I think a young person and all of us make realizations about ourselves. So it would be a very kind of self exploration as well. I mentioned volunteering, I think that is a powerful way to get a sense of other people and deepen our empathy and compassion for others. Also there are so many leadership organizations and youth organizations, humanitarian organizations that young people can connect with, one in particular that I am thinking of is called “YES” it stands for Youth for Environmental Sanity and that organization was very meaningful to me and it made me realize and deepened my awareness of my impact on the world, my impact on other human beings, on animals, on my environment, all forms of life, and it really deepened my respect, and I think it has very much founded who I am. Finally, I think a young person should seek role models whether that is an author, a speaker, someone they know in their own community, a parent, a teacher, but someone who…
The internet is a very powerful tool and [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: The internet is a very powerful tool and it’s just an ocean of information. It can inform us about current events, the past, people, all kinds of people that we would never have, you know, the opportunity to meet. We could meet them through internet. We can read about them and really get a sense of them. It’s an incredible source of knowledge, so much information and so many web encyclopedias, even books on the internet. Again, it could be a source of communicating and staying in touch, so again it’s very useful to the communities. Communities can connect with other communities and other countries and learn from each other, share their experiences and knowledge, creating forums and networks where knowledge is shared, information is shared. Internet can benefit communities immensely. It’s just a question of how we use it and to what extent.
Well, the future of the city is what we make [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, the future of the city is what we make of it and I have traveled extensively throughout Europe as well as the US and Canada and I have lived in all those places and what I have noticed is there is so many beautiful metropolitan cities, cities that are flourishing in every way, but it is interesting to see that they have centers where it’s obvious that culture, fashion, media, everything is just flourishing, but then ten blocks later, you can see parts of that same city looking like a war zone. Schools are looking terrible and obviously students are going to schools that don’t provide them with normal and good conditions to educate themselves in. Buildings, the infrastructure, it’s all destroyed and it just seems like there is this really wide gap between rich and the poor, between the wealthy and the poor. So I think that the future of the city is that, of that gap will be constantly widening if we don’t do something about it. So I think, an alternative and solution to that is trying to bridge the gap by funding more the poor aspects of society and really realizing that, you know, they need the funds, they need the help, especially education, health services in these parts. And another thing is I noticed our cities are becoming more and more modernized which is part of our reality, however, cities are becoming more and more just these prisons of cement, asphalt, steel, walls, and I think we need to bring more of nature into the cities. And by that I mean just preserving the parks and the green areas that we do have and bringing more in, and not just for the sake of the environment but just for our own mental and emotional and physical health. I think we need to strike more of a balance instead of having cities become completely deprived of nature.
Well, although Andrew is asking about all [...]
Nadja Halilbegovich: Well, although Andrew is asking about all the Chinese people wanting a car, and I will actually answer that as well, but first I want to say that this question really made me think about all of the countries, all of the people in the world and their individual impact, especially with ours driving cars, and it is a huge impact we are having with just driving more, all of us want cars, all of us want that freedom to go wherever we please, and the highways, the streets are being more and more clogged with cars, and we are creating more pollution and we are creating air quality that is not good for our health, it is not good for the environment, for our planet. Chinese people, well of course, it is, you know, a scary thought to think that everyone in a very developed, populated country would want a car and would want to drive a car, but I think in the grander scheme of things, we need to think about everyone, not just Chinese people, but all people from all over the world who as I said want to drive cars and want that independence and the alternative has to be found. And as I said in the previous answer, hybrid cars, cars that are more energy efficient, that spend less gasoline, driving less, you know and just taking public transport or walking or biking or sharing a cab with someone or sharing, you know, car pooling with someone, all those are alternative ways that you can still get to places but not pollute so much. So definitely there are alternatives and I am sure we can even think of some more, but I think our first step is the realization that no, we can’t continue just buying these big, big cars and big SUVs or vans or whatever that really spends a lot of gasoline and polluting the world, polluting our air, the air that we breathe.
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Nadja Halilbegovich: Answertext will be available soon.