When the right thing to do is helping people break the law; a look at sustainable feeding Denver’s Homeless.

Sustainable feeding practices

No waste – open community meals bring people together and embody sustainable practices.

What do you do when it becomes illegal to be homeless or as many prefer – underhoused? What if they put people in jail for trying to survive harsh elements? How does criminalizing homelessness impact the rates of rape and sexual assault in the homeless community? These are some of the questions members of Occupy Denver have been asking residents and tourists along Downtown Denver’s 16th St Mall for over 6 years since Denver’s Unauthorized Camping Ordinance (May 23, 2012) was enacted as law.

This ordinance, which became a tactic of criminalizing disadvantaged humans who often street preform or carry signs requesting donations of assistance across the nation, are best known as Urban Camping bans. Denver is one of the city’s which have lead the way in pushing these ordinances in Colorado. In the University of Denver Sturm College of Law report, “Too High A Price 2: Move on to Where?

In Denver, the price of homes continues to outstrip wage and job growth in the area. Throughout 2017, the price of houses grew at the 5th highest rate in the nation. In Denver, a typical home now requires a salary of more than $81,000 a year. Correspondingly, Denver rental prices are also increasing. In 2017, rental prices rose over 15%. The price of renting a one-bedroom apartment climbed to $1,410 per month, which is roughly 80% of a minimum wage worker’s monthly income. Simultaneously, homelessness did, and continues to, dramatically increase. (Page 4, Too High A Price 2: Move on to Where?)

The picture this report paints in Colorado is a bleak one. In order to bring awareness to the issue, this autonomous group of activists that come out of Occupy Denver and run a Facebook page “Boycott the Urban Camping Ban” calls for a direct repeal of the laws in Denver which criminalize and jail offenders for not being able to afford to spend 80% of their incomes monthly for a roof over their head. In order to draw attention to these laws, community members provide a family meal where all are welcome and clothing is available for those in need.

This sounds like a logical role for a community of humans to fill. People who don’t have beds don’t have kitchens to cook food. Here’s where this takes a twist, because this group of people are not a church, a 501c, or any documented entity – instead they are a Autonomous group holding direct actions – boycotting businesses, educating consumers and tourists, and providing meals for those in need.

In Denver there are many groups that provide food, – like brown bag lunches with a water bottle, plastic sandwich bags, and foil or plastic wrappers leftover from the food inside. Maybe a community effort to provide meals uses warming trays full of food. Generally there are still plastic silverware and Styrofoam cups or plates. Even where paper or other forms of food service are provided – in most settings, it’s disposable. As you already know, disposable is destruction. And this is what makes this community unique. These community meals, served on the 16th St. Mall in Denver, Colorado – are done with a Zero Waste Model in mind.

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Members of Occupy Denver provide clothing and sleeping bags to the underhoused in our community. Giving to others and building relationships is a great way to build community.

Meals are prepared in home kitchens. Food preparation varies based on the type of meal being offered. Stainless steel hotel pans, crock pots, Pyrex baking dishes and rice cookers can often be seen lining the streets or stacked on tables. The whole operation pops up in minutes. Before people know it there are five gallon jugs of coffee or water, home cooked meals, day old breads and rescue fruits, vegetables or salads for all who come. This can mean up to 150 people a meal – where all the work is done by compassionate volunteers who give their time to others, because it’s the right thing to do.

Organizing these activities in the community are quite simple. Picking a date, time and location to provide for others where they exist in the community should be quite easy.  One key is repetition, both in duties for volunteers and for when/where the action will take place.  For many, combining the resources and finding ways to acquire the materials to do pop up programs will be a more challenging task. Additionally, many communities have ‘laws’ against such activities like handing out meals, setting up tables or sitting in public spaces without having funding to pay for a place to sleep.  This may cause conflict to arise between ‘police’ who’s job it is to protect property and the ‘rights of businesses’ to profiteer over the rights of humans to survive and receive aid.

The key for those environmentally minded, is how to provide meals without creating massive quantities of waste. The members of Occupy Denver have chosen to create accountability by using all sustainable dishware for those coming every week. Instead of water bottles, 5 gallon jugs are available. Plates and silverware were aired at local thrift stores or by donation. Community members use dishwashers to ease the burden of washing dishes and everybody takes a little to spread out the work. This is also how meals arrive, each week.

For those receiving meals, eating in real plates makes for a nice change. For the community, it just makes good sense and it teaches everybody to be a bit more considerate of the planet.  There are other advantages also.  From building up community, talking to people and learning their real struggles, even cleaning the dishes at the end of the day, there are many reasons to do the next right thing and give time to those who have less than ourselves. To learn more about homelessness and laws read how laws against homelessness increase the struggle to survive.

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Urban Camping – Laws against homelessness increase the struggle to survive

 

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Activists of Occupy Denver outside Rock Bottom Brewery on Denver’s 16th St Mall.  Management claim to be against Denver’s Camping Ban, but have failed to publicly make a stance against Urban Camping Laws.

Denver, Colorado is a booming community located on the east side of the Rocky Mountain foothills.   Called the Mile High City, in 2018 there are few places you can travel in the city for one mile and not see the impacts of homelessness in the city.  Denver has a booming economy supported by a growing mass transit system and an international airport, the economy has been boosted by legalized cannabis reforms.  With all this in mind, Denver has, like many parts of the United States, experienced unsustainable spikes in homelessness issues.  Growing at a pace to keep up with the needs of the community has been a challenge that elected officials have been slow to find the backbone to show serious intent to create lasting solutions.  Denver businesses are a major part of this sluggishness.

In a traditionally corporate-centric move,  Downtown Denver businesses through a local lobbyist group the Downtown Denver Partnership and it’s leader Tammy Door; moved to solidify their profits by choosing to ignore the needs of the laborers that support them.  In 2012, Denver City Council passed the ‘Urban Camping Ban’ an ordinance that made it illegal to ‘camp’ or be homeless in the City and County of Denver.  At the time, it was suggested that Denver was failing in it’s 2005 commitments to eliminate homelessness.  During planning meetings, the Denver Westord reported in 2012 that commentators were very clear that Denver was making laws without proving effective solutions.  “Even if the city doubled its current shelter capacity, it would still not reach the necessary number, says Bennie Milliner, new executive director of Denver’s Road Home.” (Denver Westword, 2012)

Six years after the creation of Urban Camping Ban, activists continue to come out against this law and to promote intentional solutions.  Since the creation of the Urban Camping Ban, efforts by Denver Homeless Outloud, other activist groups and state representatives like Joe Salazar have pushed for the Homeless Bill of Rights – a bill designed to protect human dignity regardless of access to housing.  While this Bill has not passed committee for 3 years, the fact that these topics continue to be pressed by government representatives is a key sign that greater solutions continue to be sought after.

“What has been proven, that making laws against human survival, are inhumane and ineffective.  “City officials claim that they do not criminalize homelessness, but these statistics validate that they do. In 2017 alone, 4,647 people violating the camping ban were contacted by police. Make no mistake: even if a person is not arrested, ticketed or fined under this law, the very act of being contacted by law enforcement, asked to move along, or searched because of their unsheltered status amounts to a criminalization of that status. These individuals have all been told that they are committing a crime, by surviving. Sleeping with covers is essential to keeping proper body protection; criminalizing the ability to cover yourself is a threat to one’s life. Forcing people to move along results in the constant disruption of sleep and requires people to relocate to oftentimes hidden and unsafe locations. These police contacts are not only unnecessary, they compound the condition of homelessness, be it by the negative health effects, losing one’s personal documents or identification in the ensuing disruption, or resulting in a criminal record for merely surviving. 2016 saw a 500% increase in enforcement of the survival ban [urban camping ban], and 2017 numbers remain just as high. This is kind of response to a human health epidemic must be repealed for sanity’s sake of survival.” (Denver Westword, 2017)

 

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Denver, CO Community members sheltering from the snow on April 21, 2018 one day after the city hosted a public celebration of cannabis downtown. (Photo by David Anderson)

Today, May 7, 2018 Denver Homeless Outloud, will be hosting an event to release a report, Too High a Price: What Criminalizing Homelessness Costs Colorado, the second report from The University of Denver Sturm College of Law on homelessness and the laws against survival.  In the online abstract there are staggering facts like this,

“Many cities aggressively target homeless residents for panhandling and for trespassing. Fewer than half of the cities surveyed have restrictions on begging or panhandling, yet Denver arrested nearly 300 homeless individuals in 2014 for panhandling. Between 2013 and 2014, Denver issued over 2,000 trespass citations to homeless individuals. This represents more than half of all trespass citations in the city even though homeless residents are only 0.05% of the population.”

Laws against homelessness don’t work, they enhance the issue by pushing decriminalization instead of interactive support systems.  These laws, focused on persecuting people, are often presented and passed through pressure of lobby groups and campaign partnerships of local legislatures.  This is a common practice in the United States.  Lobby groups commonly write and push laws they design.  In a post I wrote back in 2015 on Microbead Legislation, I showed how microplastic manufacturers helped to write those laws.

As a plan of action, it’s important that we take action directly to prevent laws against homelessness to be written in our community.  Providing effective integrated solutions within our communities is not only more humane, it eliminates the need for such laws.  Business lobby groups indicate that the sight of homelessness is a blight, that it negatively impacts their abilities to be profitable.  They often do and say this while missing on the fact that within their own staff, most Millions of Americans are one paycheck away from homelessness.

So what do we do?  Between my job, feeding my family and paying my taxes – it’s hard enough!  Here are 3 places to start.
1) Stay involved in the activities of your local government.  Speaking out against laws that negatively impact homelessness can be a push to –

2) Support and volunteer with organizations that provide solutions.  Rising rents, underemployment and medical conditions are top reasons why homelessness exists.  Giving time and energy to help others has many rewards, most importantly you make a difference in people’s lives.

3) Open up space in your home.  Using a toilet in peace, taking a shower and having a good nights sleep are things most readers will take for granted.  Providing these to another human being is a humbling, life changing experience.  Through personal relationships and volunteering at your church or community centers it’s easy to meet and get to know a person seeking to keep their head above water.  Once the fear is gone, the freedom of helping others directly will change your life.

Homelessness isn’t always a choice, the focus of capitalistic values on property can often make it difficult to achieve such standards.  However, by working together we can achieve a standard where people don’t have to struggle for survival and fear arrest for being forced to sleep on the street.

Climate Change, Plastics and social responsibility, more lessons from my trip to Fiji

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Plastic debris litters a shoreline in the capitol city of Suva, Fiji.

As the world gathers to take account of the ways humanity has made an impact on the global climate, and the ways we can work together to reduce our impacts on the world I want to look back into more of the lessons and experiences I had while in Fiji.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the activities I participated in was Climate Week events in Levuka, Fiji.  These events were in preparation for the ongoing climate talks happening in Bonn, Germany.  the purpose of this meeting, “under the Presidency of the Republic Fiji to negotiate the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”

Impacts from climate change are affecting Fiji in many ways.  As the temperatures change along with the frequency of rainfall, concerns about water and food security are a real and active issue being faced by villagers in the 106 inhabited islands of Fiji.  Throughout my 2 year tour in the South Pacific I was overwhelmed by the dependence on imported food and the quantities of plastic that were consumed in remote areas of the world.  Much of this plastic is from water transported to the various islands on a one way trip of wasteful consumption and environmental pollution.   For most of the world, consuming plastic water is one of the greatest way individuals collectively pollute the world.  Additionally, due to the great awakening brought on by the Standing Rock Sioux, the indigenous people of the world are awakening their great and united voice, declaring that now is the time we must tend to the needs of Mother Earth.

While I was with the delegation members of the COP23 climate change week activities in September 2017, I engaged in a variety of conversations with village leaders and government staff.  Many were shocked at how the pieces of plastic water combine.  We talked about life on the islands, where for most needs, villagers are often required to grow their own foods, to work the land by hand and through a relationship with the Earth, eek out their livings.  We talked about plastic and it’s roles in global climate change.
I began by showing them how a bottle of water damages the environment through carbon pollution.  I explained how essentially, drinking plastic bottles of water burns oil into the atmosphere.  According to the Pacific Institute, the combined energy of creation and transportation of plastic is equivalent to 25% of the volume of the bottle in oil burned into the atmosphere.  Essentially for every 4 liters of Fiji bottled water one consumes, one liter of oil is burned into the atmosphere.  For a case of plastic water consumed in the United States that’s 2.25 quarts of oil per case of 12 oz (500 ml) bottles.

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There are no Target stores in Fiji, where both of these items were cleaned off a beach next to Votualalai Village off the Coral Coast where a key reef protection zone exists.

Through my time in working with those across the islands, many islanders will recognize their plastic water consumption as unnecessary.  I continuously asked people on the islands, what do they do with the plastics after they use them?    Please remember that left on the island, they will take up quantities plastics that left in the ocean will take up to 500 years to degrade into micro-plastics the size of grains of sand.

The reality is that across the islands of the South Pacific, including the island of Ovalau, Fiji – and the old capitol city of Levuka (a World Heritage Sitea World Heritage Site) plastic waste is often burned into the atmosphere.  Burning plastic has some impacts both global climate change as well as emissions that the ozone hole.  Unfortunately, every island nation that has people on it, consumes plastics in one form or another.  Many, like Fiji are phasing in plastic bag bans, generally with a fee or are introducing biodegradable plastic bags.

Sitting around a bowl of grog on a Wednesday evening in September, I was blessed to sit with people facing this issue first hand, where the problem is a daily part of life.  They have mixed water quality issues because some piping is starting to rust.  The infrastructure, laid in the ground 50-60 years ago; is beginning to deteriorate.  Many villagers are concerned that the replacement pipe is plastic and not metal.   Additionally, Ovalau was hit by a hurricane in February- 2016 and is still recovering from the storm. There are houses and buildings in every village that are not repaired.  By my observations I would estimate that less than one in twenty houses have rain water storage.

How do we solve this problem?  In most villages people don’t understand that carcinogens and heavy metals are released when they burn plastic trash. For two months I have been pondering this question.  If you’ve read my waste management paper on converting plastic to fuel, you know that there are many ways we can repurpose the waste from our consumption practices.  Currently I’m working on a feasibility study regarding a specific way to utilize post consumer plastics to create new molded or printed plastic containers.  This concept would allow local consumers to transform their waste into environmental preparedness and protect themselves from water scarcity as well and divert from the developing  practice of drinking water purchased from another place in the world.

As we look at what processes and ideas we can come up with to reduce our carbon footprint and the stresses upon mother earth, I for one am paying close attention to the conversations coming as Fiji leads COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

Fiji – Climate Change, COP23 and Sustainable Practices – A Firsthand Experience ( Part 1 of a Series)

COP 23 trash cleanup

Teaching children to clean rubbish provides lifelong experience to prevent the creation of litter.

I love Fiji!!!!   As a people the life and community mindset of people is a step away from the major concerns of the world.  “Bula”, the common greeting which is often responded with “Bula Bula” or “Bula Vinaca”;  is hard to express without a smile on your face.  In fact, in 2014 Fiji was determined to be the Happiest Place on Earth. Climate change is a daily and real life issue for many who live among Fiji’s 300 islands.  Here, in 2016 Hurricane Winston had a real life impact for many.  Homes, food sources and shorelines experienced catastrophic changes, changes that impact the daily life of villagers. In continued response to Winston as well as addressing the concerns for immediate and long term impacts of climate change and in support of their hosting COP23 in Bonn, Germany; Fiji engaged in a week long direct community engagement program the week of September 22-29, 2017.

In the town of , Levuka, Eastern Division, Fiji; I was blessed to find myself in the midst of an amazing group of people who were hosting a series of meetings in different villages on this island.  This was the Western Division meeting and there were several different meetings throughout the community.  Leveuka, a World Heritage Site, was one of 6 community sites throughout the country.

Members of this team included staff from Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Ministry of Fisheries,d Ministry of Taukei Affairs, Offices of the Provincial Administrator, Corrections and more.   This community had been working together for 4 or 5 days when I arrived on Tuesday night.  They opened the event with a parade on Friday, as can been seen in the local Fiji Sun article.  My two day adventure with this team consisted of meeting in the morning at the community meeting room, located just across the street from the village police compound.  We would load up and travel to a neighboring village. At the village, members of the community would meet with members of the team.  This happened in several segments.

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Children in Draiba, Fiji participate in replanting important mangroves which were destroyed by  Cyclone Winston in Feb, 2016

The first of these was the formal Kava Ceremony which is cultural to the South Pacific Islands.  During the Kava Ceremony, a cup of Kava grog is presented to the elders and leaders of the meeting.  While this occurs, these people have a chance to speak to the meeting at large.  Then, members of the working team would have opportunities to present key aspects of their programs and key important details of the Ministry’s working programs.  These programs focus on the realities of climate change and the ways that members of the village have responsibilities to take action both individually and collectively to help protect their families and to prepare for the continued changes that their village will experience as the conditions of the local climate continue to change.

Focusing on surviving the conditions of climate change is important to Fiji.  Simply looking at it’s makeup of over 300 islands allows for an easy understanding of why.  Under traditional and preparedness conditions, each island – even each village, should be self sustaining.  This means that food production, water cleanliness and storage; as well as secure housing and protection from water shortages are all responsibilities of the local government.  Through the COP23 program relationships, village elders are able to address concerns about the future needs of the villages and to build relationships with the employees from various agencies who will have the responsibility to address the needs.  Some of the needs addressed include: adequate long term planning for food resources, protecting against erosion, infrastructure to keep clean water available, and ensuring that adequate mangrove protections exist.

This leads directly to the secondary part of each day’s programming, hands on mitigation!!!!  It’s in this time-frame that members of the team, working together with the members of the loImage may contain: 1 person, sitting, child, outdoor and naturecal village community – get their hands dirty doing the work to prevent or mitigate against the impacts of Global Climate Change.  This time presented opportunities to learn how to set up nurseries to plant coconut fields and mangroves, protect against erosion by planting deep root grasses, cleaning up litter to protect the water supply as well as fisheries, and planting climate change resistant crops.

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Ministry of Agriculture representative, Irene Singh (left) explains the importance of planting traditional Fijian Coconut Trees as  Provincial Administrator Ropait Rakadi (right) and members of the community participate in planting a new field of trees.

Through these important hands on activities, both young and old were able to take some active role in supporting their village.  Recent events, especially recovering from the impacts from Cyclone Winston, bring understanding and urgency to active preparations and rebuilding efforts.  This practice aligns with the time tested phrase, “It takes a Village”, which well look at further in my next article.

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Littering and pesticides damage your food and drinking water

To top off my journey of the islands known as Samoa, I was blessed to have a chance to speak to about 40 Robert Lewis Stevenson College (years 10-12) students about the work and passions of being a water protector and environmental scientist. 

The presentation started by showing how much rubbish I gathered just walking on the sidewalk of the campus. Really just a handful of bottle caps and a few pieces of plastic. These students were quite sharp when I asked how long does plastic last in the environment. “500 years!!”

The majority of these young minds wish to be doctors and scientists.  Big goals indeed! So I figured this would a good platform to explain for them the methods of animal and human toxic contamination from plastics discarded into the environment.

My presentation began with explaining how plastics are made from the same oil we harvest to make gasoline, kerosene and jet fuel; adding chemicals in the same way one might bake a cake.

We then carried through to how these pieces of plastic break down leaking chemicals into the water as the sun beats down on them. The most known toxic chemical is BPA which impacts both humans and fish because it acts like estrogen in our bodies.  For spawning fish, high quantities of BPA in the water can cause a minimum amount of male fish to be born.

The chain of contamination goes even further than just leaking chemicals from the plastic into the water on land and the ocean.  As plastics are leaching chemicals into the water, they are also collecting these chemicals on their surface. These tiny plastics also begin to grow alge, which causes fish to eat them.  As the fish eat these tiny plastics, often less than 5mm in size, the chemicals on their surface are absorbed into the fish.  As small fish get eaten by bigger fish, or grow into big fish themselves; a process called bioaccumulation occurs.  This means that larger quantities of toxins will be found in the food we eat.  We see this already in salmon found in Washington State, USA.
In addition to contamination from plastics, other forms of human consumption are adding toxicity into our food and water.  Medicines like antibiotics and birth control join chemicals like pesticides from farming; niccotine and formaldehyde from discarded cigarette filters and a whole host of items that pass through drinking water systems.  While many of these are part of life in large urban areas, much of the contamination is preventable.  

One of the most important ways to prevent this from happening is by cleaning up the rubbish polluting the Earth and by keeping trash in it’s place. Without managing the way we eat and consume ; chemicals from plastics, medicines and poisons will continue to spread through our water and  food supply.  In just a few generations we’ll have made this planet into a wasteland as seen in science fiction, including the popular Pixar movie –Wall-E.

But much of this is preventable, by doing your part you can become part of the change this and future generations need to have a beautiful healthy planet. Learn to shop and eat organic foods, practice sustainable consumption, avoid plastic bottled water and always tell your friends to clean it up when they litter and pollute the Earth. 

The Roberts-Stabenow Dark Act – an effort to hide clarity in food labeling

July 1st has come and gone, and the specifics of this date are extremely important for food labeling activists around the united states.  Specifically, this date has induced the first national Genetic Engineering Labeling Law in the United States.  This law is plan and simple, and it requires companies to put in plain English if the food product within the packaging has ingredients that use Genetic Engineering.   Much more can be read at Vermont’s Right to Know GMO site.

Like California laws regulating emissions and toxicity of fibers or chemicals that can cause cancer,  Vermont’s Label law is significant in a federal way.  The specific reason is that it fills gaps in regulations and laws that congress has not preempted or superseded.  However, on the heels of this victory – there is trouble brewing in the air.  This trouble is the “Roberts-Stabenow ‘Dark Act'”.  What is this act, why is congress so intent on making their own regulations and what could happen if they don’t make their own food labeling laws – are the 3 things I want to look at today.

To begin with, the Roberts-Stabenow act is a food labeling act attempted to be implemented by congress.  This would be the first labeling of Genetically Engineered foods at this level.  Currently there are no existing regulations on this type of food product at the national level.  There are roughly 50 state led efforts of varying degree.  The most successful of these is the Vermont law, which went into effect on July 1, 2016.  This law, simply put, requires all companies to put a simple statement if any of the ingredients are genetically engineered.

In the Federal system that we Americans live under, there are essentially 50 plus governments that create a standard of rules for the entire federal system.  This is because each state has sovereignty within it’s own borders.  Due to this sovereignty, there are existing situations where, either for the methods of prosecution or based on the will or need for safety of the people, individualized regulations have been created.  Such laws such as Cannabis regulation are an example of such sovereignty.  Truth in Food Labeling is another.  While states have rights to create their own regulations within their borders, these can not be in direct negation or conflict with the federal regulations.  States can for example, enhance requirements on air pollution locally that are stronger than say – EPA regulations.

This is especially true where Federal regulations have not set up regulations in their place.  When a state does come up with regulations that are more stringent or fill gaps that congress has not, it is possible for the states to step in and fill the role on a localized or even national level.    Have you ever seen on games shows like The Price is Right or Wheel of Fortune where they give away cars and the announcer says “this automobile meets or exceeds California Emissions Standards”?  As we can see in this New York State Government Website, California Emissions Standards are being adopted by multiple states around the nation as they were more stringent that those enacted by the federal government.  In order to sell their cars to the largest single US market, manufacturers had to meet the California Standards.  Instead of making separate autos for the rest of the states, these standards have become part of national automobile sales by default.

Why is this important?  According to the American Jurisprudence 2d – Constitutional Law ( available at most libraries by signing in through their web systems):

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Pollution in American Samoa, a look at the Nu’uuli Mangroves

Recently I had the opportunity to sit in on a planning meeting between the Environmental Protection Agency of American Samoa, Department of Marine Wildlife and the American Samoa Power Authority.  This meeting was to discuss the implementation and roll-out of a new mitigation program that would include data collection to help assist in evaluating the types and sources of pollution on the coastlines of American Samoa.  Within 3 weeks, I found this article written in the local newspaper, the American Samoa News about a group of roughly 25 individuals who collected 160 bags of waste during a cleanup of the Pala Lagoon on the opposite side of the Nu’uuli Mangroves.

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A picturesque scene from the Nu’uuli mangroves.  Unfortunately, everything isn’t a beautiful as it seems.

With this in mind, I accepted an invite to take a short tour of a section of the Mangroves, a section that stretches out into the Lagoon and is one of the areas proposed to be mitigated by the EPA.  What we found was heartbreaking.

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A look inland shows large swaths of pollution across the mangroves and inland island.

As I toured the mangroves, I had a conversation with Dennis Ahoia, a local business owner and family member tied to one of the pieces of land designated as part of the Nu’uuli Mangroves.   This part of the island is uninhabited, yet the area is full of rubbish, and most of it is fairly new. After a short boat ride across the bay, Dennis lead me through the mangroves, most of which are completely undeveloped.  He showed me sections where decades ago, walls and foundations were buried from when families used to live here.

As he used his machete to clear a pathway he explained to me his families involvement in cleaning up a portion of the land.  His astonishment at the quantity of pollution was evident.  “Several years ago we were cleaning up a portion of this land, and a small fire spread across the mangroves, it burned for several days and while it was unfortunate, it burned all the trash.  So all of this, all of this is new.”

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Styrofoam food containers, single use beverage containers and other signs of human consumption are mixed with natural organic plant material at the  Mangroves shoreline.

What amazed me the most is that there are significant barriers at the waters edge that should in theory capture and limit the spread of rubbish in this area.  Large portions of debris can be found up to 50 feet inland from the shoreline.  According to Ahoia, much of this pollution comes directly from the Village of Nu’uuli and the multiple streams that discharge into the bay. His disheartened amazement at the quantities of pollution is evident throughout our entire walk.  “Where does all this come from?”, he asks shaking his head.  “People don’t take care of their garbage and it ends up here.”  It appears that this debris then floats with the currents until it comes to the shoreline where wind and varying tides carry it inland.

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Nu’uuli Mangroves – 10 -30 feet inland, you can see the waterline

Managing this pollution is a multi step process that begins with personal responsibility.  Putting trash in its place and not littering are the first solutions to preventing this type of pollution to occur.  Secondary measures are to avoid purchasing items that are common pollutants like Styrofoam take out containers.  Requesting your local business purchase environmentally responsible packaging and traveling with personal beverage containers are additional measures to preventing the problem.

Additionally,  active mitigation – or cleaning up these type of areas is also important.  Forming a group of friends and family members, faith based community, or other group that gathers regularly is a great way to make an impact on pollution in your local area.  By taking people out to clean up existing trash, we spread awareness and educate people about the impact litter makes.  This blog on tips to running a successful community cleanup can be a great place to start you on starting your own cleanup group.   If you are interested in helping clean up American Samoa please contact the EPA  by email :info@epa.as.gov  or call them directly at 684.633.2304

 

Man ignites Molotov cocktails against a Monsanto factory, in support of Puerto Rico’s independence

There are some things in this world you will not hear about over mainstream media. The fight against world domination by Corporations, including the takeover of the food supply by use of Genetic Engineering is one of them. Notice how this incident is being taken over by the FBI and not local police?

WAR AGAINST ALL PUERTO RICANS

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A 36-year old man has attacked a Monsanto subsidiary in Salinas, PR with Molotov cocktails.

He carried a hand-lettered bed sheet, which read: “Rise up, Boricua. The moment to defend our country has arrived. Viva P.R. Libre.” Here is a video report…

http://www.telemundopr.com/noticias/Investigan-ataque-con-bombas-caseras-en-Salinas_TLMD—Puerto-Rico-383524071.html

The Monsanto subsidiary is named Dupont Pioneer. The Molotov assailant, Noel D. Cruz Torres, was arrested by police and FBI agents on Saturday, June 18, 2016.


The FBI, not the local police, assumed jurisdiction over the investigation.

http://www.elnuevodia.com/noticias/seguridad/nota/hombreincendiaempresaensalinasconbombascaseras-2212024/

http://elvocero.com/tag/gobierno-de-estados-unidos/

http://www.primerahora.com/noticias/policia-tribunales/nota/hombrelanzacoctelesdemolotovaempresaensalinas-1159873/

MANY POSSIBLE CAUSES

On the island, in the press, and over the internet, many potential causes for the Molotov attack are already being discussed.

Most frequently mentioned are the economic crisis in Puerto Rico, and the PROMESA bill which may install a Washington-based Financial Control Board over the entire island.

Both major candidates for governor in Puerto Rico oppose the PROMESA bill, and said they’ll work to…

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Diabetes and High Blood Pressure from drinking bottled water?

Diabetes

Plastic pollution is a big deal.  Our oceans, green spaces and city streets are full of it.  Beaches around the world find plastics upon their shore, including ones where no humans live.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of species who are directly impacted by plastic in their diets on a daily basis.  Ironically, humans are one of those species.

If you are like most people you have heard of  bisphenol A  most commonly called BPA.   .  Many people know it’s bad but they don’t understand exactly how and they make efforts to shop for plastics that are BPA free.  That’s a good thing, but not all plastics are labeled effectively and BPA isn’t just found in plastic.  It’s also found in the lining of Aluminum cans and many major water supplies throughout the United States.

Fighting effective labeling of products is something corporations have been doing for decades.  One primary example of this is the cigarette industry.  While there has been a change over the last 100 years from Doctors and Actors actively supporting this “healthy habit” to education and understanding of the toxicity of manufactured nicotine to labels stating that cigarettes can cause cancer, birth deformities and more.

cigarettes are good

This is no different in today’s manufacturing industries.  According to the International Bottled Water Association, a conglomerate of corporations who profit from the privatization of water; BPA is a safe chemical for adults to consume.  They even provide links to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) papers and website while painting a rosy picture of the chemical, which has been regulated out of packaging and uses for infants while being allowed in the adult human supply chain.

Why is this an issue, consuming BPA?  According to a report in Reuters, researchers, “using government health data, they found that the 25 percent of people with the highest levels of bisphenol A in their bodies were more than twice as likely to have heart disease and, or diabetes compared to the 25 percent of with the lowest levels.”  One study that links it to diabetes also indicates; “People ingest BPA that leaches from containers into foods and drinks. Studies in the United States showed that BPA appeared in the blood and urine of 95% of people tested.”

In a 2016 study, researchers found,”The present study showed that BPA could lead to chromosomal aberrations in both ER-dependent and independent pathways at some concentrations or in cell types yet not reported. Also, BPA could probably be considered as a facilitator for some predisposed cells to be cancerous by raising the chromosome instability levels. Finally, estrogen receptor seems to have a different role in cytotoxicity and genotoxicity effects” http://www.ijmcmed.org/browse.php?a_id=335&slc_lang=en&sid=1&ftxt=1

Plastics have a history of being this great invention that has turned out to have many negative effects.  Pollution litters our planet and we now know it pollutes our body.  What is can be found as astonishing is that it takes very little plastic in your life to be put at risk for health issues.  One of the major carriers of “sick plastic” is water and soda bottles.  It’s a hot day and you want a cold beverage, so you stop in to a convenience store and grab a plastic bottle of water or some carbonated beverage.  After a few swigs and a few miles down the road, you head into a business for work, shopping or other reason.  But its a sunny day and that beverage you purchased in warming up, and so is the plastic that it comes in.  Maybe you drink some more when you get back in your car, maybe you put it in the fridge and drink it when it gets cold again – either way, you could be consuming toxic chemicals that have leached out of the bottle and into your drink.  No harm in that right?  Wrong.

Researchers indicate that, “Rate of growth and sexual maturation, hormone levels in blood, reproductive organ function, fertility, immune function, enzyme activity, brain structure, brain chemistry, and behavior are all affected by exposure to low doses of BPA. Many of these effects are due to exposure during early development (gestation and/or lactation), but effects due to postweaning-through-adult exposure have also been reported.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1280330/

This means that drinking plastic beverages can increase the age of puberty, impact the function of your brain, impact one’s fertility and more.  While these factors are scary, many people would believe that the solution is to avoid drinking these beverages after they have become warm.  While this is a nice idea, the truth is that many of these chemical impacts can occur to the beverage before we purchase them. Most of the shipping containers and semis hauling these manufactured goods from the factory to local distributors do not use cooling units, so the risk of exposure begins at the initial transport to market.

The same study also indicates one unfortunate fact – the government and businesses that use BPA don’t research it’s impacts.  From the same medical report we see this chart showing the lack of studies by corporations and government entities on the impacts of BPA.

Government /Corporate Studies on BPA

Biased outcome due to source of funding in low-dose in vivo BPA research as of December 2004.

All studies


CD-SD rat studies


All studies except CD-SD rats


Source of funding Harm No harm Harm No harm Harm No harm
Government 94 (90.4) 10 (9.6) 0 (0%) 6 (100) 94 (96) 4 (4)
Chemical corporations 0 (0) 11 (100) 0 (0%) 3 (100) 0 (0) 8 (100)

Values shown are no. (%).  (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1280330/)  To back up this stance, one simply needs to look at the Coca Cola FAQ page.

What’s the solution?  There are two basic solutions to avoiding BPA in your life.  Avoid single use plastics like water and soda bottles.  In addition to protecting yourself, you will have a positive impact on the world around you.  To travel with beverages on a regular basis, purchase a Stainless Steele insulated beverage container.  Insulated containers last a lifetime and help keep your beverages cold for long periods of time.  This will eliminate any concerns about being forced to warm beverages on a hot day.  Also, you can take your insulated container and purchase fountain soda from many chain and convenience stores.

While direct links establishing the permanence of impacts from BPA in our bodies are needed, it’s clear that corporations will not notify us the general public when they provide chemicals in our environment that have negative effects on the human body.  While Diabetes and Heart Disease are just the tip of the iceberg in the potential for permanent damage to our bodies, issues like breast cancer and advanced puberty onset are known.  For these reasons alone it’s best to eliminate single use plastic water bottles from your diet, but not fresh clean water.   For more information on types of plastics and the ways they pollute our body, check out page 2 of this printable PDF from the Ecology Center in Berkley, CA.

Sources:

  1. Aghajanpour-Mir S M, Zabihi E, Keyhani E, Akhavan-Niaki H, Bagherizadeh I, Biglari S et al . The Genotoxic and Cytotoxic Effects of Bisphenol-A (BPA) in MCF-7 Cell Line and Amniocytes. Int J Mol Cell Med. 2016; 5 (1) :19-29
    URL http://www.ijmcmed.org/article-1-335-en.html
  2. Vom Saal, Frederick S., and Claude Hughes. “An Extensive New Literature Concerning Low-Dose Effects of Bisphenol A Shows the Need for a New Risk Assessment.” Environmental Health Perspectives 113.8 (2005): 926–933. PMC. Web. 13 June 2016
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1280330/
  3. Washam, Cynthia. “Exploring the Roots of Diabetes: Bisphenol A May Promote Insulin Resistance.” Environmental Health Perspectives 114.1 (2006): A48–A49. Print.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1332699/
  4. http://www.coca-colacompany.com/contact-us/faqs
  5. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-chemical-heart-idUSLF18683220080916
  6. http://www.bottledwater.org/health/container-safety/what-is-bpa
  7. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm064437.htm#regulations
  8. http://www.bottledwater.org/health/container-safety/what-is-bpa
  9. http://ecologycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/eliminate-plastic.pdf

Some tips to running a successful community litter cleanup

 

 

finding things in the water

Students from the Auraria Campus in Denver, Colorado having fun cleaning the Cherry Creek in Downtown Denver as part of 2015 Earth Week Activities.(www.facebook.com/wassup)

Participating in a community based litter clean up group has many great benefits.  In addition to making an impact on the visible trash in the environment; cleanups are great ways to enjoy some sunshine, teach your children about littering, and to make or strengthen friendships.  If you aren’t already participating in a community cleanup, they are easy to start and a great way to meet new people or build upon the relationships between those in community organizations you are already involved in.  Here are some tips to making  your own community clean up teams experience a successful one that will last for years to come.

Partnerships

When it comes to the issues of pollution, there are already a wide number of agencies in your community who are fighting the problem and they are just waiting for you to reach out and contact them.  The first place you contact will probably be the only one you have to reach out to.  Start with your towns park district office or other natural spaces office.  These government entities are dependent on volunteers to assist with many community tasks like maintaining parks, bike paths and trails.  Without the hundreds of thousands of hours volunteers give annually across the country, guests and frequent users would find these areas in a significantly different condition.  One added bonus of working with these groups is that there are often volunteer appreciation events on an annual basis or other perks like passes into zoo’s or museums based on the number of volunteer hours.  More importantly, your local park district is likely to have the materials you will need to organize a monthly cleaning event, thing like garbage bags and trash grabbers, to be used free of charge.  Many organized administrators may also have their district mapped out by area so that no one group is cleaning an area that was just cleaned the day before by a different group.  They will also likely send paid staff out to collect the bags of debris collected so that your efforts are not wasted by animals opening bags searching for food.  Many agencies will also ask for a total of hours volunteered for statistical purposes.

rowboat-in-plastic.png

Small quantities of litter have become a big problem all over the world.

Organization

When it comes to planning a clean up, being organized is very important.  If partnering with an agency like the EPA, they may have scientific data to be gathered to assist in their continuing efforts to identify areas which need greater oversight and assistance.  Such scientific data often includes specifics like, how many aluminum cans, cigarette butts or plastic particles of debris were collected.  Plan on separating the debris by recyclable and non recyclable materials. Also make sure your partner organization knows when you are having your clean up so that they can come and remove the debris that is collected. Having a plan in advance of a team gathering will be especially important.  Identifying how many persons will be needed and their roles can help in recruiting to ensure that there are plenty of people to make the work load light.  Additionally, individuals who may not be able to physically bend and pick up human debris may be encouraged to come if they understand that there are different roles like data collection or event photographer to be filled.  Photographing your cleanups is always a great way to share the wonderful work your group is doing and at some annual volunteer gatherings photos of groups in action may be shared before or during the thank you ceremonies.

Other areas of organization should include – verifying the location, having adequate gloves, waste bags and garbage grabbers for those who will need them; having a map of the area to be cleaned and setting time limits.  If your group is going for monthly cleanups, setting a limit – generally 2 hours – will encourage repeat volunteers.  It can be easy to focus on the total amount of waste in an area, by setting time limits you help minimize the risk of burnout.  By sticking to your planned area and knowing that your group has done it’s part a sense of pride will be felt by all.  If there is more than your group can manage within it’s set time, there is always the opportunity to invite friends join in and cover more ground at future events.  It is also important to remember to provide an option for post clean up fraternization.  Finding a monthly community event like an art walk, or grabbing refreshments at a local favorite provides time for both talking about the action ( cleanup ) and strengthening bonds between participants.  This will be a reinforcement that builds repeat volunteers and often encourages them to bring a friend next time.

Social Media
https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQsrVf0-j_zo5pVFyjXmAPhd7Aog9S09BzWgEuVnGvGTlDfiHsN

Besides likes and loves of photographs, social media can be a powerful tool in many ways.  Social media allows for volunteers to find and share pictures of their wonderful experience so that friends and family will consider both the act of cleaning up after others and thinking twice about littering in the first place.  Additionally, tech savvy volunteers will not only register for clean ups, but they can also take advantage of such features such as sharing and saving the event in their personal calendars so that they get a reminder on the day of that they have something important to do like help protect the planet they love so much!  Making a page for your group can also be a fun way to stay in touch about the global issue and solutions others are creating to fight the problem.  Make sure one of your volunteers is dedicated to catching people in the act of cleaning up, as well as taking photographs of the total amount of waste being collected.  Group photo’s are also an important way to show how much effort goes into keeping protecting the nature we love.  In time you may be able to use your groups photos to generate business support such as free or discounted food at your local gathering place or to ensure important grant funding for agencies like your park district who need it very much or placing infrastructure like recycling bins where they can do the most good.

I hope these three tips will be helpful in getting your group started in this important community responsibility, taking care of the world around us!  Pride in picking up is a great way to build community, get some exercise and make a difference in the world around you.

You can learn more about the need to clean plastic and other trash from these great websites:

http://www.earthguardians.org

http://www.5gyres.org/

http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/