Archive for April, 2007

Earth Day can stick around for a while.

April 24, 2007

So some folks are sayin’ that Earth Day has served its time and it can go, but I say what kinda Earth-lovin’ is that? I know the whole “Earth Day is every day” business, but hey, I’m special every day and I still like to party on my birthday. I think the Earth deserves a special day too.

In any case, I celebrated Earth Day this time around not by going to a big event or participating in a river cleanup like I thought I might, but by doing a little gardening with my mum. Because what’s more earth-y than growing your own food? We stirred up the compost-y soil that’s been stewing in our raised garden beds, layered it over with some nice top soil, and planted some yummy-looking organic veggies, interspersing some flowers and such as companion plants. We even got a little creative with making a vertical structure for the pole beans, using some old pipe that was in the roof of the garage, literally tying it together with shoelaces, and stringing some vertical lines off of it for the beans to climb on.

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All in all, a weekend well-spent.

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Update: DC Vote bill passed in the House!

April 19, 2007

Wow – I just got word from DC Vote in my inbox – within hours of my last post the DC Voting Rights Act (HR 1905) has passed in the House!!! Perhaps there will be justice for our city after all. Fingers crossed for the Senate! (Still an uphill climb!)

DC needs a vote – and its gun laws

April 19, 2007

On Thursday, March 22, a House vote on a bill that would have given DC a voting representative in Congress was thwarted when Republicans tacked on language to the bill that would have squashed DC’s existing gun laws. DC, once known as the homicide capital of the US, now has some of the strictest gun laws in the country.

On Monday, April 16, thousands of citizens marched on the Capitol in what was the largest demonstration in decades for DC voting rights. This same day marked the largest gun-massacre the country has ever known, in our neighboring state of Virginia.

I could not help but notice the significance of this unplanned convergence of events. It makes the actions of those in Congress who underhandedly tried to strip DC of its gun protections all the more disgusting in hindsight. No citizen should be able to wield such tools of violence with such ease, and quite frankly, this is one area of legislation where our neighbor states and others should follow DC’s lead and crack down on this.

We will not give up the fight for our voice, and we will not allow our gun laws to be undermined. We will push for as long as it takes.

An Inspiring Day of Climate Action

April 16, 2007

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I said I’d be there, and I was – Saturday afternoon, I managed to get my mother to come with me, to stand at the rally and to sit in for is long as it took to get that human postcard just right, demanding that Congress cut carbon “80% by 2050.” She and I are in the front frame of the postcard (parked in front of the first “0” in “2050” above, on the right edge of the photo below). I joined a couple friends later that evening at reception where we watched the returns – pictures from actions all over the country streaming in and being projected on the walls of the National Museum of the American Indian, with Bill McKibben and others making remarks and celebrating. It’s tough to get good coverage from say, the Post on such an event because it wasn’t a thousands-on-Washington type of event, it was a large collection of smaller events, but still, the turnouts were incredible, and the message is clear: Congress must act now.

See the Step It Up website for more reports from Saturday, including some amazing pictures from everywhere from coral reefs to glaciers to coal-fired power plants. You can see more specific reports from the DC event here.

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Step It Up for Climate Change This Saturday!

April 12, 2007

Okay, I have to plug this. This Saturday is the National Day of Climate Change, and there is a huge nation-wide effort called Step It Up 2007 to put on actions asking Congress to “cut carbon 80% by 2050.” Right now there are over 1300 actions planned for the day and counting, and they let you search actions by your state or zip code.

Some of the more intriguing ones in the DC area:

  • A rally at the Capitol Steps with speakers and a human postcard spelling out “80% x 2050” 1-3pm (I’ll be at this one)
  • A neighborhood arts and music festival in Silver Spring/Takoma Park
  • A lunchtime rally at Farragut Square on Friday (I would go if I didn’t have a meeting…)
  • A river herring transplant in Greenbelt – Okay, so I’m not exactly sure how this fights climate change but it sounds like fun and I would totally go if I weren’t giving my practice mini-tour at the National Building Museum in the morning.

And while we’re talkin’ climate and carbon and such, I want to share a few resources about carbon emissions offsets, since they’ve been popping up in my inbox lately. These things are everywhere, in every shape and form – there’s even a click-a-day for offsets on Care2.com now (though it’s incredibly vague about its methods), and a “Go Zero” option on Travelocity. There’s been lots of controversy as to whether they’re good or bad, and they’ve been called everything from “indulgences” to “smart economics.” Personally, I’m inclined toward the positive, and will put my stamp of approval on NativeEnergy (which my family used for our most recent vacation), but sniff around and decide for yourself:

General information: from Coop America’s Real Money publication, “Carbon Offsets Demystified” (highly recommended, if you read nothing else – breaks down the various options and tips for finding what works for you), ClimateBiz’s Backgrounder on Carbon Offsets

Opinions: from the Brookings Institution, “Al Gore’s Outsourcing Solution,” a positive look at international carbon offsets; from GreenBiz News, “Are Emissions Offsets a Carbon Con?

One more victory for climate, “One less” for women’s health?

April 4, 2007

You know it’s a good week when it starts off with the Supreme Court on your side. How cool was it that the Court ruled that the EPA could regulate carbon dioxide emissions as pollutants under the Clean Air Act? That’s huge – or it at least has the potential to be, if the EPA actually reconsiders its refusal to regulate, now that it can’t make the excuse that it doesn’t have the power to do so.

But then, I looked at the metro section of the Post this morning and saw the heading “Council Tentatively Backs Mandatory HPV Vaccine.” I could tell right away that this is the same vaccine that keeps popping up in commercials with young women saying “I could be one less,” referring to statistics of cervical cancer, which can be caused in part by the HPV virus. I felt queasy the first time I saw the ad and queasy again now with this headline, and I’ll try to form the correct words as to why:

1) First and foremost, even if the vaccine were perfectly safe (which it isn’t) and completely affordable (which it isn’t), no one medical company should have that kind of power over public health, such that a spankin new vaccine whose long-term effects have yet to be tested is made mandatory for all young women as young as 9 in the District or any other state (so far Texas is the only one to mandate it, with many others considering similar legislation). Merck & Co., the makers of this vaccine (Gardasil), are the same folks that brought us Vioxx, which was similarly swiftly approved by the FDA only later to be recalled because of increased risk of heart attack and stroke associated with long-term use.

2) The target audience of this vaccine is the population with the least voice and the least ability to finance the vaccine – young women, and especially disadvantaged young women. The fact that the vaccine is marketed for and proposed to be mandated for women specifically automatically screams “sexist” to me, since the virus is carried by both women and men. This is yet another example of women being forced to carry all of the blame and the burden for their sexual health with no regard for the man’s role in the transmission of the disease. Moreover, the vast majority of cervical cancer cases are among the populations that can least afford it, and Merck has made only vague statements about taking measures to ensure its availability to low-income populations and in developing nations. The vaccine costs $360, one of the largest price tags that exists for a vaccine – I hate to imagine how much cash Merck would be raking in if the vaccine were made mandatory throughout the District alone, let alone the US or internationally.

3) As with any decision regarding personal health care, sexual activity, and reproductive rights, the most important factors are education and choice. Right now, the only mandatory vaccines in schools are for publicly transmissible diseases – and understandably so, in order to preserve a healthful learning environment. This would be the first mandatory vaccine for a sexually transmitted infection. For the same reason that no woman should be forcibly injected with birth control, no woman should be forcibly injected with any vaccine without full and complete knowledge of the risks, the side effects, and the options available to her in preventing the infection, and a choice in whether the vaccine is right for her. And no, I don’t think an “opt-out provision” is enough.

That was longer than I intended it to be but I do think this vaccine is an extremely important issue, and I find it disturbing how readily it is being endorsed by legislators and NGOs alike. I also find that a lot of reference is made to abstinence-only groups and other conservatives opposing the legislation, which is fine, and they have their own reasons, but they certainly are not the only ones, and by no stretch is this a liberal vs. conservative or left vs. right issue.

I will be composing a letter tomorrow to Mary Cheh, my city council representative and co-sponsor of the legislation, and also to the other At-Large City Council members (including David Catania, the other co-sponsor). I welcome others’ input and feedback.