You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Health’ category.

My testimony to the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board in Santa Fe on 3/1/2010, regarding case No. EIB 08-19(R) concerned with creating an emissions cap for the fossil fuel industry here in New Mexico. I am passionately supportive of the emissions cap.

Statement

I am here today before the board speaking on behalf of my family, my community, the many infants and children of my community. And most importantly, I speak on behalf of my own unborn children.

I’m so very proud to be a New Mexican, and because of this I can tell you today that New Mexico DESERVES to have every chance to be at the forefront of the global green economy. New Mexicans are some of the most hard working, honest, straight forward, unpretentious, down to earth, kind and caring folks I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. New Mexicans are willing to work hard for the progress that is promised through environmental regulations for some of the biggest, dirtiest corporations in New Mexico and the United States. Creating an emissions cap for New Mexico’s fossil fuel industry makes good business sense, is good for the health of all New Mexicans, promotes the sustained beauty of our landscape and most of all gives us the opportunity to jumpstart our economy in a meaningful way and stand, with pride, at the fore-front of the green energy revolution. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

NATIVE LANDS CONSIDERED NATIONAL SACRIFICE AREAS: “A closer look at the western religious origins of the term [sacrifice] is even more disturbing. The ‘sacrificial lamb’ or ‘scapegoat’ is symbolically understood to take on the weight of the community’s sins, and is then either exiled from the community or killed as an act of atonement.

In that sense, the designation of many Indian lands as National Sacrifice Areas is a disturbingly accurate recognition of present reality. Native communities are the scapegoats for Western consumer culture, bearing the burdens of the sins of the community. Indian communities have hosted toxic waste, a by-product of white middle class consumer lifestyles, without ever having benefited from those lifestyles.” – Jonna Higgins-Freese and Jeff Tomhave, in their article Race, Sacrifice, and Native Lands

As an ally to Native women environmental leaders throughout the Southwest, I have witnessed, first hand, that Native American grassroots and community groups are facing a multi-faceted fight when it comes to protecting their lands from continued environmental destruction and cultural genocide.

  • Increasingly the federal government and private industry is looking toward Tribal lands for new and existing sources of domestic energy, as well as ground zero for launching domestic “green” alternative energy initiatives. For centuries, corporations and the federal government have exploited Native communities for their own gain, therefore those entities pushing for this renewed effort to source alternatives in Indian Country must be held accountable to those communities who will ultimately bear the brunt of the expansion and development.
  • This effort to keep parties accountable is much harder than one might think. Tribal power over its own lands is a complicated matter, involving a “checkerboard” of intersecting, interwoven, complex relationships between federal, state and tribal policies.
    • Overall, it should be noted that more often than not, tribal governments answer to federal and state regulations, as opposed to the other way around.
    • Historically, the federal government has perceived Indigenous people of this land, first, as uncivilized “savages,” then when human rights were called into question, the perception shifted to recognizing their humanity, but deeming them infantile, so as to continue to exert power over them and their lands.
  • Unfortunately, the department of the federal government that most directly affects tribal sovereignty when it comes to environmental considerations is the EPA. The reason this is unfortunate is because research shows that the EPA “ …more often than not, opposes congressional attempts to pass tough environmental laws… spends more time and money figuring out how to exempt corporations from regulations than it does enforcing them and …. the EPA’s will to regulate is so weak that a proposed regulation must be under a court-ordered deadline (brought by an environmental group) before it will even be considered for the EPA administrator’s signature.[1
  • Investigation into the relationships between decision makers and industry has cast a negative light on many projects brought to Indian Country. For its part, the EPA has a long record of administrators leaving the department and entering into highly lucrative positions with hazardous waste management corporations and other industry players. Therefore, it is critical to provide support, when called for, to Native American partners in seeking to untangle the web of intricate policies so that the voice of the grassroots is heard as new decisions are made regarding Native land use.
  • With the onslaught of the recent economic downturn, both global and domestic, budget cuts to critical services that provide for some of the most impacted communities in this country are being enacted. The result is that impoverished communities are left disproportionately under-served by both governmental services and pro bono advocacy.
  • And lastly, as our government seeks to assuage Americans’ economic and national security fears, solutions are being sought in the heart of Native country – federal and private interests are looking to the vast amounts of untapped petroleum-based resources that lie beneath the lands of this country’s Indigenous peoples, as well as those purported to be sustainable, “green” alternatives.

Each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet… we will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.” – President Barack Obama

Nuclear power is going to be an important part of our energy mix.. We will be building some [clean] coal plants… while we search for alternatives.” – Steven Chu, Nobel Prize winning physicist and Secretary of Energy. Read the rest of this entry »

“History is important. If you don’t know history, it’s as if you were born yesterday. And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it.” –Howard Zinn

INTRODUCTION

As a former colony of the British Empire, the United States is directly influenced by the history of European women’s plight prior to the “founding” of this country. Therefore, it is imperative to understand that history so that the near past and current state of affairs related to women’s health rights in this country can be understood in complete context.  The implications of a history that includes a legal system that stems from the struggles of women throughout Europe to defend their reproductive rights against some of the most repressive, genocidal, social and legal structures in history is critical in understanding how the rights of some of the most vulnerable groups of women in this country are infringed upon by existing legislation. It is also critical in grasping the gravity of the current legislative reform related to healthcare that is happening in this country.

This brief is not meant to be complete history of women’s rights in Europe nor the United States, rather a condensed listing of some of the most relevant issues that have lead to the current state of women’s rights in this country. The paper’s perspective is decidedly Western mainstream and certainly an overwhelming amount of information could be contributed if written from the perspective of the myriad cultures that exist in this country. But the for the purposes of this paper, this perspective is a first step in understanding the complete picture of the history of women’s rights in this country.

AN ANCESTRY OF GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION & DISAPPEARANCE OF PRIVACY

By the end of the 14th century, European states began the subtle and slow transition from a nature-based society to mercantilism, which eventually evolved into capitalism. The effect this had on women and their reproductive, economic and class circumstances is a steady decline toward subjugation. Women went from positions of equity with men to being perceived as servile, infantile, commodities and reproductive machines. Increasingly, women were seen as reproductive beings, their most important contributions to society being the ability to increase the citizenry. This perspective lead to widespread social and legal restrictions on women’s access to traditional forms of birth control, abortion and holistic healthcare. Their autonomy in these decisions were completely stripped away and became affairs of the State.

There are many historical “moments” that have contributed to the current US social perception of women and legal barriers to their autonomy in controlling their reproductive choices. Some of which include:

  • In the 16th century Europe experienced a decline in population growth, which some historians attribute to “low natality rates and the unwillingness of the poor to reproduce themselves.” Sylvia Federici argues that this population crisis was the beginning of state intrusion into once-private reproduction issues. [i]
  • By the mid 16th century, the prevailing thought of the State was that a larger citizenry determined its stature on the world stage. French political thinker Jean Bodin wrote, “In my view, one should never be afraid of having too many subjects or too many citizens, for the strength of the commonwealth consists in men.” Additionally, Henry IV was known to say “the strength and wealth of a king lie in the number and opulence of his citizens.” This new widespread belief system signaled the beginning of laws punishing any behavior obstructing population growth.[ii]
  • The Great Witch Hunt of the 16th and 17th centuries were a full on assault on women the world over. The primary focus of the witch hunts, says Federici, was to co-opt control over women’s bodies, seizing power of contraception and non-procreative sexuality from them. During this time, European governments enacted severe penalties against reproductive crimes, including contraception, midwifery and infanticide.[iii]
  • There were also very strong social norms that developed indicating that women were incapable of controlling themselves and needed to be hidden away for their own and society’s benefit; women were popularly conveyed publically as unreasonable, vain, wild, wasteful, mouthy, gossipy, scolds, witches, etc. [iv] Read the rest of this entry »

The massive efforts to develop the Third World in the years since World War II were not motivated by purely philanthropic considerations but by the need to bring the Third World into the orbit of the Western trading system in order to create an ever-expanding market for our goods and services and a source of cheap labor and raw materials for our industries. This has also been the goal of colonialism especially during its last phase, which started in the 1870’s. For that reason, there is a striking continuity between the colonial era and the era of development, both in the methods used to achieve their common goal and in the social and ecological consequences of applying them.[1]

Following the Second World War in 1944, President Roosevelt convened a United Nations-sponsored (the UN at this time not officially formed yet) monetary and financial conference at Bretton Woods to discuss redevelopment of devastated areas due to the destruction of the wars. Ultimately it was in the conferences’ plans to create a Bank of Reconstruction and Development. This “bank” is today known as the World Bank and the addition of the word “development” was a controversial move according to some of the conference members, specifically those from Latin American countries; for the concept of “development” was to indicate assistance given to economically disadvantaged countries that had long suffered under colonial occupation. The overall result of the end of World War II and the Bretton Woods conference was a general split of the world into two camps: the US-led capitalist ideological, political and economic bloc and the Soviet-led socialist ideological, political and economic bloc- and the two camps proceeded to battle for world allegiance through development aid and military programs.[2]

Starting in Europe, the United States made an agreement, the Marshall Plan, which instituted a new aid design, ultimately benefiting the supplier of aid, not the receiver. Marianne Gronemeyer says of the new deal, In reality, the package of measures was the prototype of all future self-help, though it nevertheless remained a public gesture of giving. World politics had never before been so elegant. The boundaries between giving and taking were blurred to the point of unrecognizability.”[3]

In 1948, UN Resolution 200 aimed to recognize the “technical backwardness” of the “underdeveloped” nations of the world and the commitment of “developed” nations to assist them in modernizing. President Truman said of this new effort,

“More than half the people of the world are living in conditions approaching misery. Their food is inadequate. They are victims of disease. Their economic life is primitive and stagnant. Their poverty is a handicap and a threat both to them and to more prosperous areas… We invite other countries to pool their technological resources in this undertaking. Their contributions will be warmly welcomed. This should be a cooperative enterprise in which all nations work together through the United Nations and its specialized agencies whenever practicable… The old imperialism – exploitation for foreign profit – has no place in our plans. What we envisage is a program of development based on the concepts of democratic fair dealing.”[4]

This became the basis for the hegemonic assault of the industrialized nations upon the rest of the world, not to mention the absolute refusal of these nations to recognize their part in creating the abject poverty experienced throughout the Global South.

The shift in focus from promoting individual and community subsistence that values diversity and local control, to a global-led marketplace that devalues such ideas and has allowed for the promotion and prioritization of development / aid projects that displace millions in the name of modernization; promote profits for corporations not people; undermine the autonomy of countries, subjecting them to the influence of richer and more politically and militarily powerful countries; culturally appropriate family planning and control by women over their own bodies and reproductive choices; an increased number of people unable to provide for their most basic needs with their own land and labor; destruction of  environments that for centuries have provided communities with all of their needs—these realities are the real foundation of modern aid programs. Enclosure of the commons throughout the world has also included the sale of communal lands to pay off national debt and the privatization of public services, all of which take communal control away from citizens and give it over to governments and corporations. Read the rest of this entry »

Today’s social security has proven to be enormously effective in greatly reducing poverty among the elderly, protecting relatives of deceased workers and the disabled, and providing a reliable and predictable source of retirement income.
–Libby Perl, Century Foundation[1]

Social Security is more than a retirement program—it is an insurance program that takes care of vulnerable families at all stages of life. Funding private retirement accounts by diverting money away from the current system would increase retirement insecurity and undermine the viability of the survivor and disability components of the social Security system—the very programs upon which African-Americans [as well as numerous other minority groups] and their children heavily rely.
-Urban League’s Maya Rockeymoor, Senior Resident Scholar

The Bush administration announced on Thursday, November 4, 2004, his intention to reform the ailing social security system. But is it really in need of reform? For six decades, the Social Security Administration has helped Americans avoid abject poverty in their retirement years, as well as during times of the death of a working family member or in the case of disability. According to the numbers popularly crunched, even by Bush’s commission, Social Security is adequate enough to cover benefits for everyone for the next 38 years with no changes. In fact, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimates social security’s adequacy to extend into the next 48 years. “Yet social security ‘reformers’ have spent the last decade and a half convincing most of the public that social security is in dire straits.”[2]

The Bush administration is jumping the gun and creating a system that would benefit the wealthy in the long run and leave the young workers of today struggling just the same as they would if social security was left to its original design. The Bush administration is not creating a solution to the possible crisis of Social Security, instead their plans are only creating divergent ways of reaching the same critical point in the future. What are not being talked about are the critical issues that are the source of the problem. The fact that the amount of contemporary workers is out numbered by the amount of today’s beneficiaries may have something to do with outsourcing and other such policies that favor sending jobs overseas while Americans are left to struggle to make ends meet while searching for jobs. The Healthcare crisis in this country could be reformed so that when workers hit retirement age not quite so many of them would have to rely on social security medical benefits as do today. Read the rest of this entry »

“A purely reductionist science, biotechnology reduces all life to bits of information (genetic code) that can be arranged and rearranged at whim.”  –Ronnie Cummins, Campaign for Food Safety & Organic Consumers Association

What are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)?

Through genetic engineering, an organism’s DNA can be manipulated to highlight a desired trait- for example, the gene for drought resistance or pest resistance can be isolated in one organism and transferred to the target organism to produce a plant that now has an internal genetic resistance to drought or particular pests. This could and has been accomplished for thousands of years through traditional plant breeding methods, but proponents claim that genetic engineering speeds up and makes more precise this process through bioengineering. It should be noted that the majority of the scientific community opposing genetic engineering stress the fact that we would need to understand completely the processes of ecology, genetics and biology before ensuring that we can understand and anticipate all of the effects of creating, growing and consuming genetically engineered foods. This requires numerous, lengthy and rigorous testing of these products before placing on grocery store shelves for consumers. The most extensive studies have been done by the biotech corporations themselves and they are not sharing with the consuming public- and are not required to currently, as those findings are protected by law as confidential business information.

The most famous of genetically modified organisms thus far is Monsanto’s Bt gene being used in corn and cotton plants. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is a naturally occurring bacteria that produces insect larvae lethal crystal proteins. This integration of the Bt genes into the corn allows the corn to produce its own pesticide, specifically against the European corn borer (Whitman, p.1).

Some food for thought… Read the rest of this entry »

Plastic… waste is not just a national problem in the US, it’s a national disgrace… America faces a growing mountain of plastic… waste with all of the resulting social and environmental consequences.” -Pat Franklin, Executive Director of the Container Recycling Institute in Washington, DC.[1]

Every year, about 300 billion pounds of plastic is produced around the world, and only a fraction is recycled. Despite the convenience and durability plastics afford our lives on-the-go, its overall impact on our health and the planet are far too dangerous to ignore any longer. Research has found that specific kinds of plastics (petroleum-based) leach dangerous chemicals into foods they comes into contact with and the manufacturing and disposal of these products are laying waste to our communities, health and planet.

In this article you’ll find information on:

Plastic Myths

American Annual Plastics Statistics

Plastics Most-Wanted List

Most Dangerous Plastic Marked #7

Plastic Health Risks

Do you know what your plastic cutlery is made of?

Plastic Environmental Impacts

The Skinny on Bioplastics

Alternatives and Solutions

Do you know about the North Pacific Garbage Patch?

Read the rest of this entry »