The Joy of Freedom

Here’s an unusual look at sustainability. I now define “Sustainable Living” as (1) living 100% (net zero) with what Earth provides – which is affordable and actually not difficult to do – and (2) enjoying a better quality-of-life experience; the #1 reason people bought one of our Garden Atrium homes was “aesthetics,” not being eco-friendly or slashing their utility bills. Here’s an extreme that, being born and raised here, I take for granted:  Freedom.

We live in the most diverse nation on Earth, built on wave after wave of immigrants. Relating to people who are different than me is more difficult than relating to people who are “just like me.” But … just as we build muscles by working them, so we become stronger, our diversity is a factor that, like muscle, also makes us stronger. And despite the tensions diversity causes, we enjoy freedoms many don’t have. As freedom directly affects our quality-of-life experience, it’s integral to Sustainable Living. Comments afterwards.

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‘I can ride the bus. I can walk the streets’: the

joy of freedom for Rohingya resettled in the US


A diplomatic breakthrough has allowed 62 refugees

to start a new life in America. Yet a million still remain

in fear and poverty in the Bangladeshi camps.

  Kaamil Ahmed

The Guardian

Thu 4 Jan 2024


After 23 hours on his first international flight, it was only after stepping off the plane in the United States that Nurul Haque finally felt the relief of escaping the refugee camps of Bangladesh, where he was born.

Haque was among the first Rohingya refugees allowed to leave Bangladesh in more than a decade. The 62 people who have flown to the US since late last year might be few, but resettlement has given them hope of opportunity and security that was denied them in Bangladesh. Haque, 31, who moved to Portland, Oregon on the west coast with his wife and son, says …


“We have escaped the prison. For 31 years,

I did not have even basic rights. All this

time we lived with only primary services –

school, food, health. Nothing more than that.”


Bangladesh hosts almost a million Rohingya refugees but limits their access to services and bans them from travelling beyond the fenced-in refugee camps, which have existed since the 90s. One of them, Kutupalong, is the largest refugee camp in the world.

Bangladesh had also blocked the resettlement of refugees to third countries since 2010, but in December 2023 allowed the first cohorts to leave after the US agreed to take some of the refugees. For years, the only way for Rohingya to escape the refugee camps had been to rely on human traffickers operating between Bangladesh and Malaysia.

While Bangladesh has been in talks with Myanmar about repatriating some of the Rohingya population, the refugees and humanitarian organisations have rejected a return without a promise of safety. The resettlement of some refugees, even in relatively small numbers, is considered one of the few ways to ease the burdens on the camps.

The NGO Refugees International suggested last month that resettlement is an achievable way of helping the refugees in Bangladesh and that the US should take 50,000.

Bangladeshi media reported that the foreign minister, AK Abdul Momen, wants richer nations to take 100,000 refugees and was critical about the pace of the resettlement process, saying that the 62 taken so far fell short of what is needed.

Haque, like others in the first groups resettled, has been a civil society activist whose security was threatened by the armed groups who have filled a security vacuum in the camps, and often targeted activists with kidnapping, extortion and, in some cases, assassinations.

The prominent activist Mohib Ullah, who had been invited to speak at the UN and visit the White House, was killed in 2021 by gunmen who stormed his tent, and this still fuels the fears of many activists.

While Haque is now safe, he says threats continue against his family, which makes it difficult for him to settle as he is constantly worried for their safety.

The south-east Asia-based rights group, Fortify Rights, has warned about risks to Rohingya in the camps from both armed groups and Bangladeshi security forces, whose members have been accused of using violence to extort money from refugees.

The group’s director, John Quinley, welcomes the first resettlements but says that those facing security threats should have their cases treated more urgently …


“There are refugees with major protec-

tion concerns who have well-founded

fears of violence, and even death,

who are falling through the cracks.


“The UNHCR and other agencies must

prioritise coordination and information

sharing. I have spoken to some refugees

who have not heard back from UNHCR

protection focal points for months. This

is after refugees have shared their threats.”


Yasmin Ara, the founder of the Rohingya Women Development Forum, which helps educate female Rohingya refugees, had been forced to live outside the camps because she also faced security threats. She says …


“We were afraid to live outside the camp be-

cause we resided there without permission,

and we pretended to be Bangladeshi. We

faced difficulties paying rent and sustaining

the family due to a lack of job and income.

However, after coming to America, we gained

freedom. We can go anywhere without fear. We

feel much better and more secure in America.”


Haque, meanwhile, is living with another Rohingya family already resettled in Portland from Malaysia while he searches for permanent accommodation and work. Long-term, he hopes to study. Despite a ban on Rohingya studying in Bangladesh, he was able to get a university degree by registering as a Bangladeshi.

Now he wants to take advantage of the opportunity in the US to pursue a degree in international law. Haque says …


“Here I am no longer living in panic. I no

longer fear. I can ride the bus. I can walk

the streets and no one asks who I am.


“I want to use international scope to work

for my people, to make sure we can return

home to Myanmar, to make sure we get

rights there. We still have hope for that.”


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While many in the U.S. live in poverty, and while we do have shooting – even mass shootings almost daily, I think we forget to be grateful for what we do have. As “Sustainable Living” includes quality-of-life experience, we may be in a far better place than many millions of others. Adding D’s comments …


“Americans take much for granted. All we ask anyone reading this article is:


Breathe in what you do have.

Breathe in your choices that do not get challenged by your government. Breathe in your ability to vote for a candidate of your choice.

Breathe in your ability to live where you choose.

Breathe in your ability to travel, unrestricted, to any state.


“Celebrate the small and large freedoms this country affords all members. 

“There is so much that people in this country take for granted … that you have toilet paper, that you have food in grocery stores, you have banks that function, that you have toilets that flush and water that runs. That you have national parks. That you have roads anyone can drive on. 

“You have so much that you forget how much you do have. Celebrate that. 

“This freedom also requires each and every citizen to want to make their community and their country better. How one defines “better” will be different for each. Here are some simple things one can do that are more sustainable …


  • Think before you purchase, as most of us have too much already, and we do not need to add waste.


  • Be conscious of what you drive and how much, for instance, you can combine driving errands together, so you don’t drive as much?


  • What can you do to conserve fossil fuel use in your home?


  • Do you need more insulation? Can you add solar panels?


  • The big question for many people needs to be: Am I living the life that makes the most sense for me? Am I living my values?


From the article and D’s comments I conclude that while we’re not nearly as bad off as people living in refugee camps, there’s a lot more we could do to give ourselves a better, more joyful quality-of-life experience, and live in greater harmony with Earth. (And we can save a lot of money doing so.)

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