EG Tamaulipas helps local kids become Climate Leaders!

EG Tamaulipas helps local kids become Climate Leaders!

Written by Karla Sugey, Earth Guardians Tamaulipas Crew Leaders

 

On March 17th, Earth Guardians Tamaulipas hosted the activity of Reforestation in the "María Teresita Treviño García Manso" Children's Garden with students from ages 3 to 5 years! Together with the help of the parents, we taught the children about why its crucial to actively care and protect our Environment.

It is incredibly important to teach kids to be environmentally aware, because when children are taught, starting at a young age, to consider the environment, its helps to establish an awareness in the future. Thus, children will gradually understand that the well-being of the world depends on everyone taking actions to conserve our resources and that it is indeed our responsibility. The period of age between three and six years is the stage where the formation of habits begins. Therefore, if given the necessary opportunities, they will be able to acquire positive environmental habits because they are taught to do so. Altogether, about 10 ornamental plants and 15 trees, including Mango, Salvia, and Arbustos, were planted with the children!

In another group I spoke to the students about the importance of taking care of our environment and small actions that they can do in their daily lives.

The children were delighted with this theme and pledged to care for the environment now and in the future! At the end I gave the children the certificates of EG Tamaulipas and the practitioners gave them the one signed by Xiuhtezcatl.

Thanks to the teachers, the practitioners and mainly to the parents for making these actions which benefit our environment and benefit the future of the children possible! 

Xiuhtezcatl in Aotearoa—January, 2017

Xiuhtezcatl in Aotearoa—January, 2017

Written By Jim Barnes of Earth Guardians Golden Bay

After almost a year in planning, Xiuhtezcatl Tonatiuh arrived at the Wellington airport on January 3, 2017. His new year began by boarding the plane for New Zealand on New Years’ Day. New Zealand is the land of first light, the first country to see the new day and the new year, and this is where the Kid Warrior (now deemed ‘Mana Warrior’ by me), initiated his year of massive challenge and accomplishment.

Kiri Danielle of Rotorua, respected Maori kaitiaki (guardian) and environmental warrior, called him into our New Zealand whanau (family) with the traditional karanga and then led those of us who had gathered to greet him in a heart-felt haka welcome. Embraces followed which included the Maori hongi, a head and nose meeting that allows visitor and host to share connection to their third eye and their breath. I personally cannot express how glorious it was to at last embrace Xiuhtezcatl and welcome him into what has become my homeland for the past 25 years after having been born and raised in Oregon.  Maori TV, the indigenous TV station, was there to interview him and they aired the interview that evening.

Kiri loaded us all into her friend’s hatch back and we drove into the forest above the capital city where we stepped into a beautiful native bush reserve so Xiuhtezcatl could connect with Tane (guardian/spirit of the forest) and the waters of Papatuanuku (Mother Earth).  Returning to the youth hostel that had given us half price on their accommodation, our party settled into their rooms and then went shopping at Commonsense Organics who had donated a $100 voucher for the special guest.

The gig the next day at Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, was a huge success. TV One interviewed Xiuhtezcatl before his performance and, typical of his amazing adaptability, he took everything in an easy and confident stride. I moderated the panel discussion and allowed the panelists to respond to questions about climate change and effects on Aotearoa.  Afterward, Xiuhtezcatl delivered an impassioned keynote address followed by an inspiring performance with his Byron Bay friend, Jaiia Cerff.

On the 5th we boarded Interislander’s Kaitaki, the enormous ferry to carry us to the South Island. Interislander was yet another generous supporter of Xiuhtezcatl’s visit and they gave all five of us free passage. The Boulder youth was privileged to experience the rough seas out of Wellington Harbor and across Cook Strait but then the calm beauty of sailing into Picton through Queen Charlotte Sound. I took the team through the drive known as Queen Charlotte Drive, the winding and picturesque route toward Golden Bay. We had a stop at Pelorus Bridge where the cold clear waters welcomed the travelers with its chilling embrace.

On the first morning in Golden Bay, I took Xiuhtezcatl, Pearl and Jaiia to the sacred waters of Waikoropupu Springs, recognized as one of the clearest waterways in the world. The springs rise from the earth from deep limestone cave aquifers and flow to the sea only 2 kilometers away. We spent at least two hours here as Xiuhtezcatl connected deeply to this sacred place, sang prayer songs into the waters, and carried the spirit of the waters with him for the rest of his journey. The young Earth Guardians who were inspired by his time here are now engaged in a campaign to protect the waters from forces that want to extract and endanger their pristine quality.

The ARYSE week was exhilarating and full of new connections, workshops and celebrations of life. Xiuhtezcatl’s performance at the first concert was one of his best and the crowd of 200 were on their feet dancing with him for his entire performance. He was on fire! He and Jaiia led workshops together that allowed young people the opportunity to explore ways to actively engage in environmental action for positive change as well as learning to express their creative flow in rap. The week concluded with all participants showcasing their week’s creative endeavours. A huge shout out to Siti Jongkind and Sybille Feint who were the main organizers of this event.

The last three days in Aotearoa afforded Xiuhtezcatl the opportunity to be welcomed onto the Maori marae in Motueka where he addressed the gathered indigenous whanau and received gifts from them representing their culture and the special connection they felt to his mission. This was his last night in New Zealand and we were hosted to sleep in the marae after an eventful day that included a performance in the park at Tahunanui Beach outside of Nelson and then the final glorious opportunity to meet and mix with one of New Zealand’s top performers and icons, Tiki Taane and the band Fly My Pretties. Xiuhtezcatl was invited to give a short talk in the interval but was told because of the nature and size of the band (15 members), he wouldn’t be able to perform any music. Tiki decided otherwise! During the encore jam, Tiki called Xiuhtezcatl onstage and he spit out a verse of “Break Free” and the crowd of 2,000 went wild. What a way to conclude this incredible journey.

The night’s sleep at the marae was privately quiet after so much activity and the next day was a rushed (4 platefuls!) breakfast in Nelson before arriving at the airport only to discover their flight was cancelled. As Pearl was busy engaging with Tamara and the airline authorities, I had the opportunity to pull Xiuhtezcatl to a quiet corner where two chairs were waiting for us.  One can imagine the universe allowed for this much needed time to connect. The two of us were able to express our deep appreciation for the magical, incredible and inspirational time, and mostly for the love we had for each other across the seas and across the years. Homies of a lifetime is how Xiuhtezcatl expressed it and this elder homie could not hold back the tears at the parting. But the Mana Warrior, in his signature compassion and eagle arms, unreservedly embraced me and I him, and after offering a special parting gift, the time approached to say farewell and promises to return.

Xiuhtezcatl’s time in Aotearoa was far bigger and more universally significant then I ever could have imagined when I first started engaging in the fantasy over a year ago. He is the embodiment of the commitment of youth to stand idle no longer but to engage their passion, their skills and their powerful voice to be the change we’ve been waiting for. And he is also a kind, delightful, talented, compassionate young man and a true friend. Ake ake, kia kaha! (Forever and ever—be strong!)

What a Tree is Worth: In Terms Even a Banker Can Comprehend

What a Tree is Worth: In Terms Even a Banker Can Comprehend

Written By Maxwell Storms

 

An article was published recently by CNN illustrating the success of British entrepreneur, Leo De Watts, with his recently-formed company, Aethaer They are marketing, selling, and shipping 550mL (20oz) containers of fresh Britain countryside air to buyers in China who have become sick of breathing the heavily polluted atmosphere currently existing there, mainly due to the dominant coal industry. Probably the most astounding detail of these transactions is the fact that these bottles, which cost the company practically nothing to produce, are being sold in droves at the price of $115 per bottle.

Images from CNN's story on British bottled air: click here to read the story

However, this is not a rant about my outrage over that. This is an opportunity for environmental science, conservation, and economics to join together in a beautiful way, if viewed from the right perspective.

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The Trump administration is here, and for better or worse, we all have at least two years of unabashed corporatism and deregulation that could work to bring about another great recession and even more environmental disasters rooted in negligence, according to VICE Money. His administration choices immediately repudiate the message of his entire campaign and should immediately lead one to the conclusion that Donald Trump is going to be the best distraction from Congress the Republicans (now the Koch Party) have cooked up since the inception of the Tea Party Movement. As the hyperlink hinted above, Mike Pence is actually a worse choice for commander-in-chief for a host of good reasons. Trump’s idiocy, however repugnant or bigoted, are conditions we might have to actively ignore if we are to fight the bigger battle in Congress next election to save the planet from deregulation. Paul Ryan, who has never been elected without Koch funding and received a standing ovation at the Koch Donor Summit (an annual and sometimes biannual event in which top Republican Party, fossil fuel, pharmaceutical, finance, media, and industry titans representing the top .001% of wealth are in attendance), would be worse yet. Paul Ryan represents every industry in America that is profitable solely due to exploiting either other people or the planet, also known as the Kochtopus or Koch Donor Network (learn more about the Koch Donor Network in Jane Mayer’s recently-published book: "Dark Money"). This event is probably closer to a real-life meeting of evil villains than anything I could imagine.

This article from NY Mag affirms this premise in describing Trump’s soon-to-be assault on the EPA. Points of this sabotage include:

“the complete elimination of climate-change programs; a half-billion-dollars in funding cuts for EPA grants to state and local governments; an immediate halt to Clean Air Act regulations affecting new and existing power plants; an about-face on auto emissions standards; and a general defanging of EPA’s crucial ability to overrule federal and state regulations that pose environmental dangers.” - NY Mag

 

It seems the new 115th Congress is moving right ahead with its anti-regulation, free-pollution agenda as well with the passage of the REINS Act in the House on January 5.

“As one example, the REINS Act would totally neuter the new Chemical Safety Act, just passed by the Republican Congress last year. The act requires U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to review and set standards for 10 widely abused chemicals in the next six months alone. The act passed only because in exchange, states gave up much of their power to protect their citizens from toxic chemicals; without that incentive, the Tea Party will certainly act to prevent EPA from restricting the use of these chemicals.“ - EcoWatch.

If REINS gets through the Senate, it is almost certain that Trump will enact it. With this important piece of protection gone, Congress will be able to undermine many of the important, under-the-radar achievements of the last 4-8 years.

 

Just the other day, the Koch Congress closed the case on Flint, Michigan’s clean-water crisis (which most argue is still unresolved). This is a couple days after the EPA released a secret memo to its staff detailing the freezing of all grant funds and a full lock down on sharing information gained through EPA research with the public, effectively muzzling the voice of reason in a time where rampant development of polluting factors are likely to persist and excel.

Long has the privatization of our public lands been a top priority of those who frequent the Koch Donor Summits. Supporting this end, Congress moved on January 3 to change the rules around selling off federal lands, lifting rules that would otherwise make it very difficult or impossible to sell these lands off. Specifically, as laid out by Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva in a statement, “this proposed rule change would make it easier to implement this plan by allowing the Congress to give away every single piece of property we own, for free, and pretend we have lost nothing of any value. Not only is this fiscally irresponsible, but it is also a flagrant attack on places and resources valued and beloved by the American people.”  

In other words, it is a brazen attempt to devalue our collectively-held land to a value of $0! This constitutes a prelude to theft.

One tree produces on average 260 pounds of oxygen per year. That’s the equivalent of 56 and a half bottles of $115 air, or $6,514.20 worth of oxygen, per year, per tree. Now, since we know that in 2014 there were 228 billion trees in the US, and that 44% of our forests exist on public lands, what’s 44% of 228 billion? That’s 100.3 billion trees.

Yosemite National Park in CA, one of the most visited places in the USA.

Yosemite National Park in CA, one of the most visited places in the USA.

Multiplied by each individual tree’s worth of $6,514.20 the value of our collectively-owned public land in the oxygen trees produce alone is worth over $653 trillion, considerably more than our total economy! However, they are only worth that much alive.

While I’m not suggesting we create a massive air-bottling enterprise, I am using the premise of a price-precedent to determine the real, current value of breathable oxygen from trees on land that equitably belongs to all of us. Privatization of public lands would mean a massive theft of our high-return investments and assets that have been valuated by the clear demand of our largest creditor, China. This is just one example of thousands of how public lands are profitable assets of the citizens of the United States and, arguably, the most equitable holdings the American people could ever have for leveraging power away from the Kochtopus.

Some might see this high value of nature as something with wiggle room, something that we can take from for a long time without having to worry. That perspective reflects the type of thinking that exploitative industries use to justify investing in more fossil infrastructure while it’s clear the planet cannot handle any more. This is the same type of thinking that morphed China to the continuously unmitigated environmental disaster it is today. This type of thinking is why people there are willing to pay $115 for 20 ounces of air with the same quality as here.

Personally, I think we should double-down on trees.

The next steps reside mainly in the mid-term elections of 2018 and require us, both as individuals and collectively, to begin working to educate ourselves about the Kochtopus, the basic structures of the Federal government, our local and state governing structures, and the human beings involved in them. We need to consciously consider whether these elected officials ought to be replaced or not. Groups working to ensure there are better candidates to choose from, including Brand New Congress and 314 Action, need support now more than ever. Organizations like ProPublica, who make the investigative research into these shadowy figures possible, also deserve support. The above-mentioned, silenced sectors of government have united and rebelled via twitter on their new, alternative handles. If you want to learn more on how nature has monetary value, be sure to check out the short film “A Bee’s Invoice: The Hidden Value in Nature”, Directed by the same Adrian Grenier that some might know from Entourage. (Part 4 of the wonderful series, “We the Economy”)

Reflections on COP22 from Earth Guardians Africa.

Reflections on COP22 from Earth Guardians Africa.

Written by:

Mensa Tsedze, Earth Guardians Africa Crew Director

Udeh Chiagozie, Plant for the Planet

This past November, the UN Conference of Parties popularly referred to as COP22, ended in Marrakesh with Countries from all over the world coming to an agreement named the Marrakesh Action Proclamation. COP22, which was beautifully hosted by the government and people of Morocco, most importantly set a deadline of 2018 for the completion of a rule book that will guide the implementation of the Paris Agreement from COP21. The Paris Agreement set the tone for discussion in Marrakesh since all Parties had signed before or during COP21 and about 115 countries have ratified it so far. It helped shape the discussion to focus more on steps for implementation of the climate agreement.

 

An important aspect of every COP since the COP19 in Copenhagen has been the Green Climate Fund (GCF). Established in 2009,   the fund is expected to see $100 billion contributed by participating parties, especially those from the Global North, untill 2020 towards mitigating the effects of climate change. Implementation of this has been a major problem because since the start, not more than $12 billion has been contributed to the fund and COP22 was the first of any COP to see the GCF accessed by member states. Liberia was granted $2.2 million approved and $2.9 million was approved for Nepal. The UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) is expected to approve up to 20 more requests soon in order to bring the combined sum accessed from the GCF to $2.5 billion. However, if we must achieve the targeted climate action plan, the target of the GCF must increase and more countries will need to be able to access it faster.  In the end, there was something to celebrate when some parties agreed that with the current realities, the billions of the GCF must be transformed into trillions in order to achieve the global target on climate change solutions.

The Election of Donald Trump

The election of Donald Trump as the new President of the US which came on the second day of COP22 had a major impact on the discussion. As soon as the election results became obvious, it triggered palpable fear in most member states owing to Mr. Trump commitments in the build-up to the election, which at best, represented climate denial. This put serious doubts on the position of US on the Paris Agreement. However, the fear was doused when the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, arrived at the COP venue to deliver a press conference. He assured the global community that the US will not pull out of the Paris Agreement and that Mr. Trump will find it extremely difficult to do so if he ever wishes for such. That did not stop many member states from directing comments to the US during the plenary sessions. Fiji Island made a very emotional appeal to the US during the closing plenary to come to their rescue as it did during the Second World War. The Head of Fiji delegation specifically called on Donald Trump to support efforts in fighting climate change and help his country to secure land space in the US to relocate their population at risk of displacement due to climate change. Going by recent happenings, it does appear that Donald Trump will not be as much of a threat to climate change as he previously appeared.

Africa at COP22      

     Mensa and Udeh at the Blue Zone at COP22

It was a great outing for African countries at the COP22 especially with Liberia being the first African country and one of the very first two member states in the world to access the GCF. However, much of the attention for Africa was understandably drawn by the host Morocco which hosted many side events to boost their growing reputation as an anchor nation for Africa. Morocco’s gigantic solar plant projects, Nor 1 and Nor 2 in Rabat, were a must-visit best practices center for most delegations at the COP.

Uganda earned a great amount of praise for their Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and the meticulous plan of the country towards achieving it. In fact, the country was seen as an example of best practice country in terms of NDC and other African nations were urged to emulate Uganda.

One of the issues that came up was the perceived lack of support from developed countries for nations in Africa towards mitigating climate change. While developed countries admitted this fact, they also pointed at a lack of bankable projects from most African member states urging them to work more on the sustainability plans of their projects before seeking funding.

China took the lead on South Asian Cooperation on climate change to another level by offering $3.21 billion to developing nations progress which it announced last year in Paris during COP21. This was announced during the side event at the China Pavilion organized by China, Morocco and the UN. More countries from the Global South are seeking to benefit from the support China is offering as the nation had already declined contributing to the GCF preferring to put its funds towards supporting cooperation among developing countries. The Africa Pavilion hosted many events mostly focused on renewable energy, agriculture and adaptation. The continent will see a lot of infrastructural development in the next few years that will support climate smart development. 
On a light note, the African Pavilion was the best place to be at the COP22 as it had a specialized WiFi and always offered proper “food” to its guests!

Earth Guardians at Cop 22

This COP22 as before, has seen the participation of young people, many networked under the banner of YOUNGO or individually. Several activities were organized by youth organizations at different side events in both the Blue Zone and the Green Zone. The organization "Plant for the planet" during this COP distributed chocolates called "change chocolate" to the different delegates of the countries participating in the negotiations. Earth Guardians, although not officially delegated to this COP, had several of its members participate either in another official delegation, as negotiators or as observers. However, Earth Guardians came to different events, musical, press conferences, and participated in many other ways. Earth Guardians globally will continue to monitor whats happening with the Paris and Marrakesh agreements and are excited to see them implemented as soon as possible! 

Plastic Pollution Awareness Day is headed your way!

Plastic Pollution Awareness Day is headed your way!

Written by: Hannah Testa founder of Hannah4Change

People always ask me how I ended up getting February 15, 2017 declared as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in the state of Georgia.  After all, I am just a 14 year old girl.  The short answer is passion and hard work, but I know that's overly simplistic. So here is my story.

Long ago, when I was 4, I realized that the actions we take today have an impact on our world.  One day, after leaving a store, I said, “No one cares about our planet except for us”.  My mom asked why I said that, and I replied that it was because no one brought their own reusable bags except for us.  So from a young age I learned that protecting the Earth started with us.  Around the age of 10, my parents started exposing me to issues that were affecting the animals I love, and so I started to really raise my voice to help the Earth and its animals.  I raised money and awareness for various animal causes (it was difficult to focus on just one cause) by speaking at protests and rallies, collecting thousands of petitions to send to politicians, leading fundraisers, and producing educational videos to spread awareness of animal issues.

Around this time, I realized that one of the biggest problems facing wildlife is one that we can control - plastic pollution.  For me, it is difficult to see a problem and not do anything about it.  Even though I am young, through education I felt I could get others to reduce their plastic consumption because I always believed that Knowledge is Power”.  If we all were truly aware of what is really going on, wouldn’t we all want to improve the situation?

After learning all I could about plastic pollution, and partnering with several environmental organizations, I ended up networking with a local senator.  My mom always says, “you don’t ask, you don’t get” so I used that philosophy to simply request an awareness day to educate the public about the dangers of plastic pollution.  Together, we wrote a resolution that will proclaim February 15, 2017 as Plastic Pollution Awareness Day in Georgia.  And now I am publicizing this event to as many residents and businesses as possible, with the goal that at least on this day, we will all commit to avoiding single use, disposable plastic products such as plastic bottles, straws, and bags.

Click on the above flyer to check out the event description on Hannah's website. Also, Earth Guardians will be partnering and incorporating this day of awareness into our Protect Our Future campaign and will be calling all EGs to take action around Plastic Pollution in their communities! So if you are involved in Protect Our Future and care about how plastic is effecting our environments consider organizing an event or action on Feb 15th 2017! (If you want to learn more about Protect our Future, email Aidan aidan@earthguardians.org)

Click on the above flyer to check out the event description on Hannah's website. Also, Earth Guardians will be partnering and incorporating this day of awareness into our Protect Our Future campaign and will be calling all EGs to take action around Plastic Pollution in their communities! So if you are involved in Protect Our Future and care about how plastic is effecting our environments consider organizing an event or action on Feb 15th 2017! (If you want to learn more about Protect our Future, email Aidan aidan@earthguardians.org)

There is no doubt that you too can do what I have done.  Fuel your passion to help animals and the environment by getting educated on the issues…remember, “Knowledge is Power”.  Discuss the issues and share what you have learned.  Network.  Leverage the internet and social media.  If we children join together and use the power of our collective voices, we can force change.  I hope you will join me to influence changes that help our wonderful planet.  Together, let’s change the world!

The Things That Power Us

At a very young age, I found my self fascinated by both science and nature. My love for both formed around the same time and by the time I was six I had developed an inventor's mentality, the  “what can I fix today” mindset. I wanted so badly to put an end to global warming, pollution, and anything harmful to the earth. I had plenty of great ideas, but no one listens to children.  So, eventually I stopped talking about my ideas. I remember reading about the conversion of energy, which is a principle of physics. I wanted to understand it fully as an attempt to put an end to the energy crisis. One day, back in ‘09 when I was nine; I was leaning over my mother's shoulder, while she read an article about a harmful dairy by-product, more specifically a by-product of greek yogurt called acid whey. Greek yogurt was a major fad back then, so it had created a ton of this whey and no one really knew what to do with it. I had an “whey” cool idea. Convert it into energy!


For a while, the idea was locked away in the back of mind. It wasn’t until I turned 16 that I thought of it again and as it turned out acid whey was still a problem. That's when I got a bright idea- to make acid whey myself and see what I could come up with. I had remembered from my first grade science textbook how a battery worked. With that I only had ten dollars so I did some thinking before going to Home Depot, I bought zinc and copper.  Then I went to the grocery store I brought milk, live curds and candy.

Project Blue Print (click the picture to go to the Kickstarter!)

Project Blue Print (click the picture to go to the Kickstarter!)


After all that,  I turned my kitchen into a science lab! You can imagine the mess and my mother's feelings towards me. Hint: both weren’t good. It also wasn’t good that I “borrowed” her sponge and cut it up. Sadly I had to clean up my mess, before I did anything else; even save the future. I assembled my battery after letting my sponge bits soak in the whey. I got my digital multimeter and measured it to see if I had just changed the future. I did. I sat there staring at the battery emotionless, I didn’t think it would actually work.  I imagined the future, and debated whether or not to tell my mother, because I had destroyed her sponge and kitchen. But, I did. I told my entire family and sadly no one really got it, they just asked if it was dangerous… I realized, maybe I was the only one who cared about acid whey. I mean, I emailed everyone I could think of, but no one responded. A few months passed and now I was in school.

Above pictures: (left) Sim testing how much energy a regular battery produces, (middle) Sim testing how much battery the acid battery produces and finds it create more than a regular battery! (right) Sim talking about her battery.


It wasn’t until the middle of the night, that I realized I could turn any non-sulfuric acid into energy. So I built it again, recorded everything, and I told my most awesome, sock-tastic math/science teacher Spencer, about my creation. He was excited too and he helped me out with my kickstarter page.

Click on the final project digital design to go to the Kickstarter page!

Click on the final project digital design to go to the Kickstarter page!

I learned a lot from trying to create something. You can’t do it on your own. It's important to have  people encourage and support you. I needed my mom's kitchen and sponge.... But I also needed my teacher’s support and enthusiasm. Sometimes you just need to take a step back to look at everything, whether it's a mess in the kitchen/lab or the applications of an invention.


With all that said I think this project could be the future. The possibilities are endless and the things that could be created from it astounded me. Jobs, gadgets, toys, the list goes on and on. I can’t help, but be a little afraid. One day we will have to break away from the overly aggressive fossil fuel industry. Why not today? Why shouldn’t we truly stand on our own two feet and take the steps towards the progressive future, we truly deserved?  It’s been quite obvious that we cannot rely on those in power to protect us. As should we should create the power ourselves!

Written by:

Sim Mateen

Sim.jpg

The Kings Of Democracy

By Iris Fen Gillingham

Iris is an incredible activist from the Catskill Mountains of NY. She not only is the crew leader of EG SUNY Sullivan, NY but also an active member of our RYSE youth council.

As a little girl when people said democracy, I thought it meant we don't have a king, or one person in charge of everything. The common people have more of a say in decisions, and we vote every four years to elect the leader that we want. I thought it was all fair and equal. Then I grew up. 

I would like to define democracy as a system that allows people to influence the government by electing candidates whose actions are beneficial to the people. I would like to define democracy as a system that promotes the well being of the population and distributes justice and equality. In the perfect world and ideal society, democracy would demonstrate a governance with the best interests of all and guidance from the populace, along with the coexistence of the earth, humanity, animals, plants, and civilization. 

I don't think we are a democracy by the definition of the word. Webster's Dictionary defines it as “a form of government exercised either directly by the people or through their elected representatives; rule by majority; the practice of legal, political, or social equality.” Yes, we vote for our representatives. But “Rule by majority” should mean that the mass vote actually elects the leaders we want, right? In the election of 2000, Bush won because of missing votes in Florida. It just so happened that his brother was Governor of Florida. If the American public were told the truth about the real life consequences of fracking and not the lies that the media has fed to us, what would the majority opinion be. If people saw the real facts and heard the stories of those affected by industry's greed, what would everyone think? Not all our political leaders are the ones to blame directly, but they are being paid off by the corporations to not say anything. We have seen this multiple times either directly or indirectly. We have witnessed it indirectly by an askew campaign finance system that allows the rich and powerful to fund political campaigns and make extreme donations. We have seen it directly in the multitude of elected officials who end up leaving office or getting arrested for taking bribes and peddling influence. (Such as Speaker Of The New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, and Majority Leader Of The New York State Senate, Dean Skelos.) So is that American democracy? I’d say democracy is a word that is being warped. Do most people really know what the exact definition is besides that they get to vote for a few politicians? 

Social equality does not exist in America today. Flint is still without water and the Navajo Nation has been without water for years. The rich keep exploiting the poor, the minimum wage is still not enough to live on, and women are still paid unequally by some companies. In reality racism still exists. Heck, one of the presidential candidates is openly racist and sexist (and unfortunately now the next president of the US). The two main options are a woman who has been on the campaign trail for years and made decisions that negatively impacted communities, and a man who boasts about harassing women and kicking people of different ethnicities other than himself out of the country. These are the choices we have for commander in chief. I know many people who are disgusted with both candidates and say they will have to vote for the lesser of two evils. I don't think a true democracy means voting for one so that the other doesn't win. The election of 2016 has at most been interesting, scary, and ultimately has shown how bought out and false our democracy has become. 

Shouldn't democracy mean that every person has a chance, an honest trial? And the criminals that rob, lie, and kill, are put away, not the teenagers just trying to get by. The true criminals. The ones that rob us with a diamond studded pen and paper. The ones that lie right to our faces about their opinions and how they will help our families. The nicely dressed ones that kill us with cheap food franchises, drugs, toxic chemicals in our clothes, energy extraction operations in our neighborhoods, radioactive waste sites near our schools, fracking fluid in our water, and power plants by our children's playgrounds, to name just a few. The same ones that send soldiers in riot gear to take care of peaceful protesters that are bringing awareness to these killings.

Today the American democracy is loaded with nepotism. It wouldn't take very long to go through politicians names and find that they have relatives, friends, and colleagues also working in government. There is something to the old saying “it's not what you know, but who you know” This plays out very prominently in American politics. Today when I look at any politician or listen to what they are saying, I wonder if they are telling the truth. Is that what they believe? Are they going to actually do that? Many times the answer is no. 

Today's democracy system is ruled by a few with money and influence, not by the people. If the people had an influence it's because we went out in the street and rallied, protested, and challenged our leaders to listen to us! Political leaders will do what benefits them the most. In today's democracy it is vital that the people rise up and take action so that the heads of our country finally do what is best for us. Sometimes we win and other times we lose. Sometimes our efforts don’t make a difference in the passing of a pipeline, but sometimes it does. Then it reminds the leaders that they may be the head but we are the neck, shoulders, and body of this country. We must never give up. This imperfect democracy needs the people, otherwise it would be nothing. Yet sadly, sometimes the very representatives of the people are the ones killing us. The ones force feeding us lies, chemicals, violence, and division.

Some Earth Guardians at the March for a Clean Energy Revolution before the Democratic National Committee in Philadelphia this past summer.

The American democracy system has many faults. We as the people must stand together and show our political leaders what kind of a world we want to live in. We can ask for changes in the system. Nothing is perfect; democracy certainly isn't. It is also an issue of social change. Our countries leaders are following in the footsteps of leaders before them and unless we create considerable social and political change, people are going to live and act in a warped democracy. The way it's structured is true to the definition of the word, but not the way it plays out which is a democracy ruled by the rich and influential. So are we really a true democracy? Do we call ourselves a democracy, but are actually ruled by invisible kings that influence elections and have their own agenda? Do we live under the monarchy of democracy? In a way, we are all subjects of the kings of democracy but it does not have to be this way. We can create the change we want to see. United we can all stand and make our voices heard by the kings of democracy, instilling what a true representative democracy is. Not a system where we are ruled, but one where the kings of democracy don't exist.

Humanity's Plastic Addiction: Saving Our Ocean

Plastic is having a devastating effect on our oceans, our wildlife and ultimately on us as a human species.

The introduction of plastic in the 20th century has led us to become increasingly reliant on its use and now a large percentage of almost everything we buy contains plastic. However, while we are happy to use it we are less adept at recycling it and the sad fact is that less than 10% of the plastic we produce gets recycled. Of the rest 50% makes its way into landfill and the remainder is unaccounted for, more often than not getting washed out to sea, where it inflicts a substantial toll. 

While the top five countries which contribute the most to plastic ending up in the oceans are China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, we all need to play a part in reducing our own contribution if we are to bring about change.

 

What Practical Steps Can Be Taken?

Carrier Bag Tax: One recent government initiative in the UK has been to bring in a 5p charge on all carrier bags. The good news is that since this came into effect in October 2015 the seven main supermarket chains have seen an 85% decrease in the use of plastic bags. This means far fewer plastic bags will end up in landfill or in the oceans.

 

Fundraising and Volunteering: If you want to take part in the clean-up operation and conservation efforts taking place at the coastline closest to you The Marine Conservation Society encourages people to get involved in several ways. You can help by beach cleaning; sea search for experienced divers; or by fundraising so the society can maintain their conservation work.

 

Conservation as a Career: Some people might feel called to pursue conservation work as a career. One of the best ways to find out if it is right career path for you is to undertake a marine volunteering  program where you can collaborate directly with experienced conversations to discover what the work entails.

 

Being Aware of What We Buy: When we head to the supermarket it’s important to be aware of the packaging our produce comes packed in and to minimize it where possible. Opt for loose fruit and vegetables and then take them home in a biodegradable paper bag, instead of wrapped in three types of plastic. Alternatively shop at farmers’ markets where the food travels a shorter distance from source to plate, and within minimal packaging.

Recycling: It can sometimes be a hassle to recycle everything we throw away but it can make all the difference to what ends up in landfill. Sort items weekly prior to your rubbish collection and for larger items try to pass them on to someone who needs them using the ‘freecycling’ sites.

Earth Guardians Bhutan has done several clean ups where they separated recycling and made sure it went to the right facility to be properly recycled.

 

The Huge Problem of Plastic in the Ocean

The majority of plastic which ends up in the sea, over 80%, comes from land-based sources. One of the major contributors to this ocean pollution is our obsession with drinking bottled water. Over 200 billion bottles of water are consumed each year and over 176 billion empty bottles ultimately end up in landfill or the ocean. Even more seriously the situation worsens year on year with studies showing plastic marine debris is increasing dramatically.

One of the most serious problems with plastic is that it takes thousands of years to degrade. The plastic in the ocean often forms huge floating ‘islands’ where currents meet. One of the largest and most infamous is the Pacific Trash Gyre in the Pacific Ocean which has a larger surface area than Texas.

The action of the sea also breaks down the plastic into smaller pieces and this makes it particularly deadly for wildlife and ultimately for us. As the plastic deteriorates it absorbs other toxins and then enters the food chain, eaten by fish. This seafood can become contaminated with cadmium, mercury and lead and then places humans at risk when eaten. A proven carcinogen, Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) is found in increasing levels in seafood, as is Bisphenol A (BPA) which research has shown interferes with human hormone function.

Plastic is also entering the ocean through the problem of microbeads. These are tiny plastic beads present in many shower gels and toothpastes, and millions of them get washed down the drain and ultimately into the sea every day. These tiny beads can be ingested even by plankton and then move on up through the food chain. There is great pressure on governments to take a stand and ban these deadly plastic additions to our oceans before the situation worsens. The UK government has stated that it will ban all microbeads in cosmetics by the end of 2017 and in the interim some retailers are taking action themselves as seen by Waitrose’s recent announcement they will no longer stock any products containing microbeads.

It’s vital that every person plays their part by refusing to purchase products which contain microbeads and in addition stops adding to the mountain of empty plastic water bottles by drinking tap or filtered water and always taking your own refillable flask or bottle with you. We have been led to believe that plastic is disposable, but that is very far from the truth. Every item we throw away either ends up taking up valuable space in landfill or adding to the plastic pollution of the sea.

Earth Guardians every where are dedicated to using reusable items to decrease our impact on the world!

 

Other Risks to the Environment

Plastic in our seas is a major risk to the environment but it cannot be considered in isolation. Whilst we are tackling the problem of reducing our plastic waste we must consider other factors which contribute. All factors together cause a devastating effect. These are some other major factors to consider.

 

Water Pollution

Our water is a precious resource and yet we don’t treat it with the respect it deserves. The use of plastic mulch to cover the soil on farmland allows farmers to better control soil moisture and nutrients. However, it also encourages faster runoff and this can allow pesticides to be transported towards rivers and the sea where it enters the food chain.

 

Climate Change

Few people are now unaware that industrialisation and the rise in CO2 have led to drastic climate change. The increase in greenhouse gases has led to a rise in the surface temperature of the planet; increasingly unpredictable weather patterns; and the melting of the ice caps, most notably at Antarctica’s Larsen B ice shelf.

The burning of fossil fuels is the biggest contributor to CO2 emissions, and this has come from heavy industry and the massive increase in transport which has happened around the world. More people than ever own cars and take flights on a regular basis; and this doesn’t even touch on the billions of tons of produce transported around the world daily.

 

Deforestation

Deforestation is another factor in climate change. As forests are destroyed, there are fewer trees to absorb CO2 and thus levels rise still further in the atmosphere. Deforestation is occurring for several reasons: to make room for agriculture and urban areas; to satisfy our ever growing need for palm oil; and to make commercial items such as paper, furniture and building materials for homes.

With our planet at risk it is important that every individual does what they can to use natural resources wisely; to minimize their consumption; and to recycle at every possible opportunity. It’s also vital we all raise our awareness so we can put pressure on retailers and governments to make the changes which matter most.

Post written by : Joe Thomas