Rice Isn't So Simple

By: Kendi Wolever

Thai food is my absolute favorite food and I could eat curry every day for the rest of my life if given the option. So tonight, I tested out a restaurant I hadn’t tried yet and I ordered my usual Panang curry dish, eager to taste this restaurant's version of my favorite meal. As per usual, my dish was served with a side of rice. It’s kindof hit-or-miss for me whether I actually choose to consume the rice. If I do eat the rice, I soak it in curry sauce, eat all of the rice, then take the rest of the curry home. 

Sometimes I think I’ll feel guilty for eating the rice due to the little tummy fat I’ve developed over the last year so I’ll simply leave it at the table to be disposed of. And it’s easy for me to leave behind because rice has always been just a bland side item that I could take or leave without much thought. 

Ironically, though, after my little tiff with my side of rice at the Thai restaurant, I came across an article about rice and the events that have taken place throughout countries in Southeast Asia. 

Over the last few years, places like India, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam have been without crucial rainfall during it’s expected monsoon seasons. The people in these countries are dependent on this rain for their lives. The expected rainfall during monsoon season provides growth to the crops, baths to bathe in, and hydration to the people.

India saw 49% of expected rainfall last year, and there were places that saw even less than 35%. This drought is caused by a major fluctuation in the earth’s climate system, and it is causing death. Hundreds of farmers have committed suicide already this year and in 2015, the number of suicides was in the thousands. Children have died of heat stroke waiting in line for water from wells; fathers are trading their young daughters in exchange for food; STI’s are on the rise due to a heightened amount of prostitution as a last resort for survival. 

How does rice enter this picture? Well, 60% of the world’s rice comes from Southeast Asia and we are facing a worldwide crisis due to these country’s water shortages.

Relief will hopefully come soon as scientists in India have been using waste steam from a nuclear reactor at a desalination plant to desalinate seawater, purifying it so that it’s fit for consumption. China has been releasing water from dams to help ease the situation. Monsoon season is also right around the corner in mid-June and there are high hopes for relief with the coming rains.

It’s difficult for me to look through article after article describing the loss taking place in Southeast Asia while I’m sitting in a cozy coffee shop, checking my Fitbit, trying to resist eating that cookie sitting in the pastry case. I think about the leftover rice that’s sitting in my fridge right now and how I normally would just throw it away because it tastes too dry now. 

It’s difficult to read about what’s going on outside of my comfortable lifestyle here in Tulsa, Oklahoma because it always causes me to pose the question: “what can I do?” And the answer always seems to be “nothing.” 

Ignorance really does sometimes feel so blissful, and I’ve been asking myself if I really wanted to know the full extent of what’s going on in Asia right now (because we both know there’s more tragedy on top of this drought they’re experiencing). 

Do I wish I could just go to a new Thai restaurant for the fifth time this week, play with my rice, and not be reminded of world hunger? Kinda. But what good will that do? I refuse to stand by in ignorance, unwilling to do at least something to help those in need. I know I can do more good by knowing than by ignoring. I’m still figuring out how to properly do that.