Friday, January 27, 2017

Stand with Standing Rock #NODAPL

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) is gaining investment from various banks such as Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo. Of course the new President has financial ties to the pipeline so he has reinstated approval to both the Keystone XL and DAPL so he can get his paycheck. This President claims that this will make us energy independent, however, it is already speculated that this oil will not be used within the country, and instead it will be bought and sold for export. This is not energy efficiency, but I will get to that in a moment...
Furthermore, the president's justification for signing off on the approval of the pipelines was to create "jobs", which he estimated to create 20,000 jobs. But some researchers have estimated far lower. Actually because most of the work has already been done in the infrastructure of the pipeline, the only jobs remaining will be some 100 jobs.
Another lie being spread by the oil pushers is that activists at Standing Rock are on private property. They are not! And in fact they are on their own land that they have been inhabiting since before the White Europeans came. And because of this, the federal government, police, and companies should not ask the activists to leave.
Another lie was that the police did not use militarization tactics on the activists. When in fact, many activists are suffering irreparable damage to their bodies because the police used pellet guns to blast people, pepper spray, and fire hoses on the people in the dead of winter night. One woman is blind in one eye, another woman has an open wound to her arm, and many more are suffering. And of course the rations and donated goods to the people are being blocked by the police.
This is the ongoing struggle that Native/indigenous (Americans) have faced historically, and that continues to be their fight to hold onto the last bit of land that the White man is still trying to take.

Beside the social and political injustices the people are facing is the water and land contamination. According to Winona LaDuke, 80% of oil spills are discovered by citizens--and not by the paid inspectors (the some 150 inspectors across all of America) that actually are told not "say anything" about the spill. Energy Transfer was just bought out by Sonoco Logistics who tops the charts in America for crude oil spills. It is not a matter of if the pipeline breaks and causes a oil spill, it is a matter of when.
Once again, this is not energy independence or energy efficiency. This is the continuation of consumer culture that creates the trash culture. We cannot continue to get resources from the ground and below the ocean to drill, when it creates so much destruction in its path. Energy independence looks like wind turbines and solar panels that is also affordable for every person at every income level.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The ocean is a plastic soup essay

The ocean is a plastic soup. Plastic is derived from synthetic materials, most commonly produced from petrochemicals, and we have become devastatingly dependent on this "material", and the environment is reaping this destruction. "In some cases, small amounts of those chemicals can remain trapped in the product unless suitable processing is employed. For example, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has recognized vinyl chloride, the precursor to PVC, as a human carcinogen" according to McRandle of "Plastic Water Bottles". National Geographic. BPA in plastic has been argued to be an estrogen-like endocrine disruptor that may leach into food (McRandle, 2004.) "The very chemical bonds that make them so durable tend to make them resistant to most natural processes of degradation."
In fact, what happens to a lot of plastic is that it drifts from landfills and populated areas into the water ways. The documentary Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch shows you footage of their own discovery of what plastic does from netting entangling coral reefs to pieces of plastic eaten by seabirds. In the documentary, the research states that often the people that use netting for fish will leave the net in the ocean. In one instance, one sperm whale found in California in 2008 died because it ingested 22.2 kilos of plastic in its lifetime.

Because plastic is relatively low cost, "easy" to manufacture, versatile, and resistant to water, plastics are highly valued by people. According to Andrady of "Applications and societal benefits of plastics" says "packaging beverages in PET plastic rather than glass or metal is estimated to save 52% in transportation energy". While this may be the case, I am advocating for a an entire shift away from pre-packaged beverages and things altogether. Yes, that sounds like I do not want to buy anything at all, and that sounds very strange to people to imagine a world where things aren't wrapped or packaged, or that things wouldn't exist at all. That is the concern for people.

According to The World Counts, global plastic waste has created a gigantic “plastic soup” the size of Russia in the Pacific of up to 15 million square kilometers. In 10 years, this amount will double. This year alone, we will be producing 5 trillion plastic bags, equating to 160,000 every second. All of us are guilty of this plastic convenient bag. But for the last 6 years I have used cloth bags every time I go to the grocery store so I'm not using plastic grocery bags. Of course when there is an occasional plastic bag that ends up at the house, I use it for the bathroom trash (I may do a video or a post on what I do with plastic bags in the future.)

Even on my behalf, I have limited the amount of trash and waste I produce and throw away. For years I saved plastics and took them to the recycling place, but realized: this is only adding to the environmental degradation--it's fueling the fire, so to speak. I save cardboard boxes to burn later, I save glass bottles, and other things so I'm not throwing them away. I realize though that I'm surrounding myself in trash and waste as to avoid adding to it to be dumped elsewhere.
This is a consumer culture, thus it is a trash culture too. There are small and large scale solutions, and all we have to do is imagine we can do it because humans are very good at imagining the future and creating what we want to see. I believe that we can abolish the plastic industry and completely change the way we make everything. It is a matter of seeing the problem, because especially in the case of trash and waste, if someone picks up our trash to take it to a landfill, we are not aware of the devastation we are doing ourselves. We don't watch our trash get taken to a landfill and watch our own trash get tossed and parts move with the end, and things end up in the ocean. If we see the problem, we will want to fix it.
I have mentioned this before in several posts: that instead of logging trees and clear cutting forests for carbon materials like box, loose leaf paper, and many other things, we can use hemp or bamboo instead because they are low impact materials. This can be said for plastic as well, by replacing plastic with hemp fibers.

People think because bottled water exists, that somehow it's better than tap water (although I find that tap water tastes like bleach, I still drink it instead of bottled water.) But, more people are buying different beverages in plastic bottles, and of course when you give people so many options, they help these corporations get rich.
Once again, individual solutions are good, but there will need to be large scale change that requires corporations to refuse buying and using plastic while completely changing the way they package items. Or even better, these corporations realize that what they produce and sell is meaningless to life, adds to the trash and waste of the world, and realize that they only produce things to make money instead of creating everlasting change. Actually, the large corporations need to be held accountable for all the unhealthy food and beverage options and the waste that exists in the world--we cannot blame people for their own mindless gluttony because it's the rich that are exploiting that notion of people.
There are many micro and individual solutions, like Sweet, a company that takes travelers to destinations like Mexico, that they call 'gaycations' to clean up the environment and do many community service projects during their stay. I found that to be interesting and mindful, so I recommend watching the full video here for some inspiration.

Monday, January 16, 2017

My grandmother (short story) by Cassie K

I go with my grandmother to her doctor's appointments. Her husband, my grandfather, will not assist or accompany her on these appointments, and because I understand that she seems alone in those moments, I have volunteered to go with her. This week, I assisted her when she got her scan of her lungs. Then the next day I cleaned her toe nails, massaged her feet and lotioned them. The next day we went to her foot doctor that done more extensive work on her feet and toe nails than I can do. I figured I'd leave some work for the expert and professionals. The next day, I go with her to get something else checked out. She said she felt like it was her kidneys, so I accompanied her to her doctor. When she was describing her symptoms, I said "Oh, so a UTI."

And of course my grandmother got a prescription for that, which was sent over to the grocery store we go to. I told her to drink tea for the UTI, and that is the most effective thing for me when I've got one.
Then she needed to see her allergy doctor, so we went there, and I accompanied her to that appointment, but I'm still wondering why she went there. Then she got an her allergy shot; and we headed over to the grocery store to get her prescription. I accompany her as she gets her groceries, and I helped put her groceries in the truck.

All while we're in the truck and we go to each place that she needs to go, and every time she does this: my grandmother insists that she place her hand on my knee every time we're in the truck. She rubs my knee excessively, then scratches it, tickles it, rests her hand on it, and pats it. When she does that, I want to scream at her, and I want to push her hand off, but I don't. So in my head, I laugh at the situation but scream a little inside, because if anyone else saw my grandmother rubbing my knee for 20 minutes, as she does, then they would see my eyes bulging and my mouth twisted.

She hands me this manila envelope that has two pieces of paper inside. One is a colored picture of strawberries, and the other one is a picture of a daughter and her mom that was colored. Grandma had colored these for me, and said: "I can't draw or paint like you, but I can color. And I want you to have these. That picture is supposed to be me and you." I hugged her and said 'thank you', and it's one of the sweetest gestures and gifts I've ever got. When my grandma and I are together as I help her and assist her in her doctor's appointments and shopping, I wonder if people see a young person helping an older person, and wonder if that's my job. Or I wonder if people see a young person that also needs help.
What they do not see is the 27 year long relationship I have had with my grandmother. She raised me, kept me warm by the wood stove in the winter, and took care of me when I was sick--particularly those two weeks when I had a sore throat, and she cured me with rice and tea. Little did I know she was already feeding me vegan at 11 years old. Actually, she is the reason I was able to eat vegan when I first started, because she was picking vegetables out of her garden and making homemade vegan biscuits every night for years. For 14 years, I got on and off the bus at her house and she would have tea and cooked vegetables and biscuits waiting for me to eat.
That's what people do not see. I sometimes forget about those moments, which is why I don't push her wiley hand off of my knee or growl at her that I can't stand her hand on my knee. Instead, I laugh in my head.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

To those who celebrate Independence Day response by Frederick Douglass

A response to those who 'celebrate' and revel in holidays such as Columbus Day and Independence Day from Frederick Douglass which remains just as relevant as 164 years ago: "What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religions parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy--a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour" (Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States, p. 182.) 

A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn quote

For those who ask 'why isn't there a white history month?' and other absurd questions: quoting George Rawick of From Sundown to Sunup: "Indeed, the activity of the slaves in creating patterns of family life that were functionally integrative did more than merely prevent the destruction of personality...the social process out of which came black pride,  black identity, black culture, the black community, and black rebellion in America."