My Rag Sister is tryina tell me Bell Biv Devoe is better than NKOTB. Donnie Wahlberg is crying. Get over there and dry Donnie’s tears!
Via blogger lrapps I learned about Low Impact Week, an online campaign organized by Crunchy Chicken that runs June 1 – June 7. The week focuses on decreasing one’s personal environmental impact in one of seven areas: energy consumption, water usage, food habits, paper product dependency, garbage, single occupancy vehicles, and long-term planning. I don’t blog much on environmental issues, and when I do it’s usually because environmental and social justice concerns overlap in a pretty unavoidable way – the Save Punalu`u campaign, for example. (FYI, you can find an article on the state’s continued negligence of cultural sites in favor of more, more, more development here.)
In the Real World, though, I actually think quite a lot about my impact on my environment (mostly with guilt, lately, as I’m learning to drive). Like lrapps I try to limit my use of plastic bags and disposable cups, take-out containers, etc. I’ve forked over a buck to get taken off junk mail lists. I spend extra cash on those energy saver lightbulbs and I unplug all my appliances before I leave for work in the morning. I’m a pescetarian (aka FAKE VEGETARIAN, there, I said it before you could). I have thought a lot in the last several months about promoting local/sustainable food choices, which is actually just an excuse for weekly trips to the farmers’ market.
That said, I do all of these things very imperfectly and within my limited means, which is probably why I don’t blog about environmental health and awareness. There’s also the undeniable privilege involved in living an environmentally friendly lifestyle in America. No Impact Man is not hurting for cash. Neither were most of the regular shoppers at the eco-store where I worked throughout college. My reluctance has also been shaped by arguments around why we’re sending sanitary pads to refugees in Africa instead of Diva Cups. Eventually you can save a whole lot of money living eco-friendly, but damn there are some start-up costs.
Recently, though, I’ve come across some writing on how harmful environmental practices and poverty are intricately connected. Alternet posted a doozy of an article on how longer work-weeks use more resources with little or no payoff in productivity (at least at 40+ hours/week). Not only that, but it costs us more to live so that we can work these long hours.
Unsurprisingly, the United States is the world’s largest polluter. Housing a mere 5 percent of the world’s population, it accounts for 22 percent of its fossil fuel consumption, 50 percent of its solid waste, and, on average, each citizen consumes 53 times more goods than a person in China, according to the environmental nonprofit, Sierra Club.
When people work longer hours, they rely increasingly on convenience items such as fast food, disposable diapers, or bottled water. Built-in obsolescence has become standard business practice — just throw it away and make more — leaving mountainous landfills in its wake. “Earning more often means spending money in ways that are environmentally detrimental. We’re finding that to compensate for lack of time, you actually need more money to work those extra hours,” says Monique Tilford, acting executive director of the Centre for a New American Dream, a Maryland group promoting environmentally and socially responsible consumption. “When people are time-starved they don’t have enough time to be conscious consumers. The overarching theme of our organization is to remind Americans that every single dollar they spend has a carbon impact, to make the connection.”
Reading it over, though, I think the wallet impact is just as significant. This is a crucial point. Environmentally destructive practices are making us poor, not just in the future, but right now. Obviously this doesn’t just apply to Americans, either. Oxfam has just released a report to this effect, timed to coincide with the G8 summit in Germany. From the summary:
There is a deep injustice in the impacts of climate change. Rich countries have caused the problem with many decades of greenhouse-gas emissions (and in the process have grown richer). But poor countries will be worst affected, facing greater droughts, floods, hunger, and disease.
The impacts are already hitting vulnerable communities, where people are starting to adapt their lives to this reality. In South Africa, less frequent and less reliable rains are forcing farmers to sell their cattle and plant faster-maturing crops. In Bangladesh, villagers are creating floating vegetable gardens to protect their livelihoods from flooding. In Viet Nam, communities are helping to plant dense mangroves along the coast to diffuse tropical-storm waves.
Climate change is a challenge to current models of economic growth: all countries will have to find low-carbon paths to development, in order to keep global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But given their historic role in causing the problem, rich countries now have two extraordinarily clear obligations: to stop harming, by massively cutting their greenhouse-gas emissions, and to start helping, by providing compensatory finance so that poor countries can adapt, before they suffer the full impacts of climate change.
Tackling climate change requires an unprecedented level of global co-operation. The G8 summit in Germany in June 2007 brings an important opportunity for rich countries to demonstrate their commitment to achieving such co-operation. The task of G8 leaders at Heiligendamm is clear. They must set a global target to keep global warming below 2 degrees, and commit to reducing emissions in their economies by 2015.
I think Low Impact Week is a great idea, a great way to raise awareness about cheap and convenient ways to encourage folks to make environmentally conscious decisions – which is a great way to start thinking about the bigger political moves that need to be made. But we have to get past the image of rich hippie tree huggers yelling at everybody eating Big Macs, and the class problems of eco-chic consumerism. We need the well-off to pay up, act responsibly and support more affordable sustainable living options for all of us, not just buy some hemp-soy blend yoga pants (I promise you, they exist… fine, I OWN THEM) and fly 10,000 miles to India for a meditation retreat. Like every other approach to fighting poverty, we have to resist smugness and complacency. It’s not news who wins from short-term waste and long-term damage in the name of productivity. As Rachel Carson (who would have turned 100 this week) said in 1964:
Is industry becoming a screen through which facts must be filtered, so that the hard, uncomfortable truths are kept back and only the harmless morsels are allowed to filter through? I know that many thoughtful scientists are deeply disturbed that their organizations are becoming fronts for industry. More than one scientist has raised the question of whether a spirit of Lysenkoism may be developing in America today, the philosophy that perverted and destroyed the science of genetics in Russia and even infiltrated all of that nation’s agricultural sciences. But here, the tailoring, the screening of basic truth, is done, not to suit any party line, but to accommodate to the short-term gain, to serve the gods of profit and production.
when I see the shadow of the hawk
but not the hawk itself do you know
what it feels like Boss a stone a stone
set on my chest it weighs me down
it’s stronger than the horse’s strain
against the plowlines Boss it’s like
the river after rain I can’t
hold back the pull the pull that makes
me like its heft I even like
the shadow’s tiny yoke O Boss
I feel its curve around my neck
I see a flap of wings so black
it binds me to the furrows Boss
a shadow smarter than the sting
of a switch though it is lighter than
a feather though it is thinner than
a leaf that shadow stone is one
of many wonders Boss for all
the world it makes me think of you
you heavy thing you never move
– Maurice Manning
I will not be blogging this weekend because I was attacked by zombies. We have escaped the island of Hawai`i and are currently wreaking havoc in Waikiki. How do zombies party, you ask? What is our theme song?
Bon weekend! Enjoy your tasty, tasty brains while you can.
The Carnival of Radical Action fast approaches, and I’m thinking about my own experiences with activism. Not handing out information at polling stations, attending protests and marches, volunteering as a patient escort at women’s clinics; that happens, it’ll keep happening, I’m grateful to help but it doesn’t change much and it certainly doesn’t change me.
Over time I’ve become more and more interested in the idea of collaborative or collective projects — and I’m excited to see them developing on the blogosphere, through various carnivals, sites like AfroSpear, Ally Work, and arts and cultural projects like Birds of Lace press or make/shift magazine. When I read and think about community among activists, it’s not just about some realpolitik conception of critical mass to create change on a point. It’s about experiencing change in our daily lives, with the people we love and respect, as opposed to working ourselves ragged towards change as the ideal.
My interest and my fierce love for community and collaboration has its source in the one bit of activism I’m very proud of, a reading series I started as an undergraduate for other undergraduates — specifically women, specifically feminist women — to read their original work.
When I started college I was delighted to find an undergraduate reading series on campus and attended every single reading, dragging anyone and everyone to go with me. After awhile, though, I was discouraged because… can you see it coming?… the people who were reading were all, with few exceptions, young men. (There were hardly any people of color either, another widespread problem at campus events, but I’m not gonna lie and say I was very aware of that at the time.)
So after a year of listening to stories and poems reveling in their own masculinity, by and for young hip dudes with beards and ever-ready handles of whisky, I decided to start something new. From the beginning I saw it as an issue of space versus silence. Physical space to counteract silence at readings, silence in class, and eventual silence on the page, that horrible silence when I’m alone that censors every word the moment before I ever write it down. (The silence that makes even this blog post incredibly difficult to write.)
As all events do, my little series took time to grow – but it did grow, and in fact it’s still going. It just finished its sixth year, and has widened in scope under subsequent coordinators to actively promote social justice issues, often hosting events with other student groups on campus.
A few notes on the whole process: how did it actually get started? Continue Reading Radical readings…
I have come down with some sort of mysterious stomach ailment which prevents me from eating without intense pain. petitpoussin without food is not a pleasant petitpoussin (some may say, Goodness! that pp we saw before, that was the pleasant one?, to whom I reply, FUCK YOU I’M HUNGRY). Thus, until I scrounge together the money for the magic doctor pills and thus am able to ingest food that is not in bullshit liquid form, I will probably say little. Or possibly I will ramble on about my deep and sincere love for four things above all else: bagels, mushy peas, Honey Nut Cheerios, and vegetarian eggrolls from this one place up in Kensington. Right now I love those four things more than all people, and I am so sorry if I ever spoke ill of them.
By the Rivers
That spring he was fourteen,
sun on the walls, stale air
sweet in Bergen-Belsen for the first time,
he told me he thought of the nurse
who held him when he was small.
He found a corner
where they did not catch him:
rush of the brilliance and the heat
and no one there. He opened his clothes,
hunched over his wasted body,
and made it spill.
The poem wants to look forward, not
back, but out there as far as it can see
are ruins: body of Abel body of god body
of smoke. And no recognizable
child to mourn.
So it begins with longing.
Or with fear, that old dog
stinking beside it, scabby and blind.
And all the time the future
is pushing up uncalled for
under the cold ground, or gliding down
like the first snow, wet syllables
that melt and soak up the darkness.
The poem wants to get out of
where it is. But is instructed
to remember. In shameless daylight.
By the rivers of salt.
This post is about Hollywood’s approach to the midlife crisis, although some of you might not be wrong if you think it’s my love letter to a mid-90s action film called Speed.
Thirteen years later, this film is still a trashy joy, much like another Keanu Reeves film and Sunday evening favorite of mine, The Devil’s Advocate. But while that film takes the inevitable and easy route and features Al Pacino as Satan, Speed stays a little closer to the ground with its villain: a disgruntled retired police officer living in Los Angeles.
Continue Reading Planes, trains and automobiles… and a cheap gold watch…
The 38th Carnival of Feminists is up over at Team Rainbow, with loads of good links, including a bunch that slipped through the cracks for me while I’ve been, um, distracted.
Speaking of the carnival, past CoF host Elizabeth over at A Blog Without a Bicycle has posted her MA thesis on the feminist blogosphere, entitled Carnival Collectivities: Blogging and the Creation of Feminist Networks Online. You need to check it out: it’s a very readable and intelligent blend of exposition (of theory and research methods) and experience. Elizabeth draws on four different feminist carnivals, including the Carnival of Feminists and the now-dormant Radical Women of Color Carnival, as well as observations from interviews with fifteen feminist bloggers. [Full disclosure: I'm one of them.] The importance of community is a central theme across the interviews; I’m glad to be reminded of that just now. I feel privileged to have found such a large, dynamic, brilliant group of people to make up my feminist/progressive community in the blogosphere.
(Maybe someday I’ll write a book about it!)
Plans are under way for a blog for domestic workers day on Tuesday, June 5th. Posts can range from personal stories to theory to political essays or any combination – the idea is to get the stories and issues around this important topic out of the domestic closet and into the public. These women have raised countless numbers of children who are not biologically theirs; they take care of elderly people who might otherwise have to move out of their apartments and into nursing homes; they also clean apartments so that people can work their 9-5 jobs and come home to a beautiful space. They work hard, they support their own families – and ALL of us, whether we are domestic workers ourselves, have a relative who is, were raised by one, grew up in a house with a “cleaning lady,” have elderly grandparents with live-in help, or simply understand that taking care of children and cleaning is difficult and thankless work, we are ALL connected to this issue in some way. Please consider joining me in this important project and check back into saltyfemme soon for updates – by next week, I’ll have pages for linking with the text of the Bill of Rights and information about the Town Hall event on June 7th at Judson Memorial Church here in NYC.
This is not just an issue for New York, as the recent compromise on an immigration bill (to be debated, probably this week, on the Senate floor) demonstrates.
Under the tentative deal, undocumented workers who crossed into the country before Jan. 1 would be offered a temporary-residency permit while they await a new “Z Visa” that would allow them to live and work lawfully here. The head of an illegal-immigrant household would have eight years to return to his or her home country to apply for permanent legal residence for members of the household, but each Z Visa itself would be renewable indefinitely, as long as the holder passes a criminal background check, remains fully employed and pays a $5,000 fine, plus a paperwork-processing fee.
A separate, temporary-worker program would be established for 400,000 migrants a year. Each temporary work visa would be good for two years and could be renewed up to three times, as long as the worker leaves the country for a year between renewals.
To satisfy Republicans, those provisions would come in force only after the federal government implements tough new border controls and a crackdown on employers that hire illegal immigrants. Republicans are demanding 18,000 new Border Patrol agents, 370 miles of additional border fencing and an effective, electronic employee-verification system for the workplace.
And those are just the downsides that WaPo is willing to report! According to an interview on Democracy Now! with Stan Mark, Program Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund:
There are also other problems. I mean, some of the things that you should be aware of is that there’s resources being allocated before any of the temporary workers or any of the visas for people to legalize themselves over a period of many years, resources allowed to imprison or detain people — 27,500 aliens per day on an annual basis — that is part of the proposal, which –
AMY GOODMAN: 27,000 –
STAN MARK: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: — people to be imprisoned a day?
STAN MARK: Per day. Resources to detain up to that number per day on an annual basis. That means that there’s an intent to round up as many people who are undocumented or suspected of being undocumented and detain for — you know, in massive camps or massive — we don’t know the full impact of that. But basically the framework that I’m trying to put forward is that there is no equal rights for immigrants or their citizen petitioners or family members to bring them here, and we’re moving away from family reunification, which has been our cornerstone, and replacing it with a labor employment system to facilitate and strengthen corporate interests and allow for them — for, you know, agribusiness and many of the other corporate powers –
JUAN GONZALEZ: When you talk about the drastic change, this almost sounds to me like, from a policy of “give me your tired, your poor” — now, it’s a visa policy of “give me your educated, your affluent and your technically skilled” to be brought in, right?
STAN MARK: That is true. And also part of that point system would favor people who speak English from countries, so countries that do not have English as part of their language or part of their education system, mainly countries of people from Africa, Southeast Asia, East Asia, Mexico and Central America, would not be favored under this system. And basically, by eliminating those family preferences that I mentioned earlier, it would prevent the people who are citizens and people who are green card holders in the future to prevent to bring in or petition for their family members in the future. So this is really a radical change.
As salty femme writes, “there are over 200,000 domestic workers in the NY metro-area – I don’t even know what the numbers look like for the whole country. They are almost exclusively immigrant women of color. And they are not covered by labor laws. Talk about not valuing women’s work.” The way the immigration overhaul is shaping up, it doesn’t look like concerns for immigrant rights will change that.
Check back with salty femme for more information and resources — and if you know of similar meetings/activism, please post info in comments.