Category Archives: human rights

How far must we take our moral obligations to the earth?

I am an avid protector of the environment, but I find myself facing daily struggles about how to live my life. I think every environmentalist inevitably faces certain hard decisions every day. On one hand, we want to care for the environment and the world’s wildlife and human populations. On the other hand, this makes life very difficult.

Should I bike to work for 30 minutes in the snow and 8-degree temperature? Should I stop eating the french fries I love so much from McDonald’s? Should I buy only local even though I can barely afford it?

Today I read an article about the effects of birth control hormones when they are flushed down the toilet. According to a University of Idaho press release, “James Nagler, professor of biological sciences, recently discovered that 17α-ethynylestradiol – an active chemical in birth control pills – causes cells in rainbow trout to have an abnormal number of chromosomes.”

There have been studies on the effects of birth control hormones on human populations as well. One study stated that the estrogen that entered drinking water as a result of flushing the toilet could affect the gender of an unborn child, thus causing a positive spike in the birth of female babies.

It would seem ethical then, to cease the use of birth control pills. This, however, fails to address the world’s problem with overpopulation. It also fails to recognize the many health benefits that are offered by birth control pills such as controlling the severity of endometriosis and interstitial cystitis.  Many women even use birth control to lessen the pain of their menstrual cycles.

How do we find a balance then, between protecting the environment and protecting ourselves? I personally suffer from a condition known as interstitial cystitis and have been successfully using birth control as a method of controlling the pain and discomfort associated with the condition for more than a year.

I feel horrible knowing that by treating my condition, I may be negatively affecting human and animal populations. So what are we to do?  Should we all just try to do what we can to help save the environment and worry a little less about the not-so-good things we do to contribute to the problem? Is it enough that I use reusable shopping bags, buy organic, recycle, start a carpool club at work, and write this blog? Or should we all sacrifice just a little more?

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How the slums of Mexico changed me *published in Children International eNews

About two years ago I walked through the slums of Mazatlán, Mexico. I looked over at the children in the street, who were playing soccer barefoot, and almost tripped over the loose wires that the neighbors had used to create their own electrical system. I sat next to a mother in her one-room shack, and she welcomed me.

You may ask what a pale, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, Kansas girl was doing in a ghetto south of the border. You may think that it seems like the perfect plot for a horror film.

I was working as an intern at Noroeste newspaper in Mazatlán, and my editor decided he wanted me to experience the “real Mexico.” You see, while the other Americans were slathering on the sunblock at Mazatlán’s beautiful beaches, I was experiencing parts of the city hidden to tourists.

I’m not saying I asked to visit the area. I was scared. I felt uncomfortable. I felt frivolous in my pretty designer clothing.

But the residents didn’t care. Sure, a few heads turned, but they welcomed me into their houses. They were eager to tell me about the injustices they had suffered; how the government wouldn’t help them and how they had to create their own electrical and sewage systems.

When I left that day, I felt morose. Don’t get me wrong, I knew that there was poverty in the world. I, myself, did not come from an affluent background. However, to see this firsthand, to talk to poverty’s victims, to see its children, deeply moved me.

Too often we place ourselves so distant from things that make us uncomfortable. We tell ourselves that it’s not our fault and we go on with our lives. We live blind and barren.

I am by birth a fighter for justice. However, my experiences in Mexico have made me stronger in my convictions. I can now put a face on poverty and injustice, and my desire for amnesty for all has increased.

I wish I could tell all of you to visit my little section of Mexico and talk to the people who I talked to, but that is impossible. What I can encourage you to do is open your heart. Understand that we are all connected in this world, and that everybody matters. Wealth should not be measured in dollars, but in love.

I would also encourage you to join me in fighting childhood poverty by sponsoring a child through Children International. I have been sponsoring a child for almost a year, and it is so encouraging to know that I am helping her become the person that she deserves to be.

Please join me. Help make a difference for one child. Show your love and support for those in poverty throughout the world.

This post was reproduced for Children International June 2008 eNews. To see the blog and photos, click for English or Spanish.

Companies with a conscience

Stop. Close your eyes and think about the qualities of a successful company.

If you are like many environmentalists, these words may have came to mind: Profit. Exploitation. Pollution.

In today’s world it’s easy for us to get caught up in what is going wrong in in society, and in doing so, we forget to focus on the good. We forget to think about those companies who do their best to end exploitation and do good for the environment at the same time.

Here is what these “do-good” companies have realized: being a good sumaritan is actually good for your company.

Chipotle

Chipotle has all the ingredients (literally) for a successful business. They have a niche, they have a business sense, and they even top it off with tasty burritos.

But this product has a conscience. Chipotle’s menu consists of natural and organic ingredients.

The hallmarks of Food With Integrity include things like unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, sustainable, nutritious, naturally raised, added hormone free, organic, and artisanal. And, since embracing this philosophy, it’s had tremendous impact on how we run our restaurants and our business. It’s led us to serve more naturally raised meat than any other restaurant in the country, to push for more sustainable practices in produce farming, and to work with dairy suppliers to eliminate the use of added hormones from their operations. —Chipotle Web site.

Learn more about Chipotle’s Food With Integrity philosophy here.

Aveda

Aveda has a superb product and comparable prices to other designer hair and beauty manufacturers.

So what makes them stand out?

Aveda believes there is no responsible alternative to doing business other than through environmental sustainability. At Aveda, we also believe that profit and environmental responsibility will increasingly work together as more industries find out that “nature works” for both sustainability and the bottom-line. –Aveda Web site

Aveda uses 100 percent wind power to operate their manufacturing facilities. Aveda is also one of the largest purchasers of organic ingredients among beauty organizations. Aveda doesn’t stop there, however. They support responsible packaging, participate in charitable giving, and support the indigenous communities that help provide Aveda with its natural plant-based ingredients.

Organic valley

Organic Valley, the “Family of Farms,” is comprised of1,205 farmers from across the United States. Instead of the traditional company, where the wealth is distributed to only a few, each member of the Organic Valley cooperative shares the organization’s wealth.

Organic Valley prides itself in distributing food that is better for the environment and better for people.

A commitment to choosing local and regionally produced foods is a core value of the organic movement. In addition to fresher foods and reduced fossil fuel consumption, the profit from the sale of locally produced foods is more likely to find its way back into the community. Consumers and family farmers working together to support such local systems form a sustainable partnership. –Organic Valley Web site

And all this environmentalism has profitted the company. The sales of this $259-million cooperative jumped 25 percent in 2005. This is an above-average growth rate for even a conventional food company.

So, environmentalists and social advocates, do not despair! There IS good in the world! I feel a wind of change in here and I think I sense the dawn of a new kind of company — a company that gives back equally to what it takes. A company that truly cares about the world. A company with a conscience.

Support Colombia in their fight against terrorist FARC

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Las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (known as the FARC) likes to characterize itself as “The People’s Army,” but they are far from it. Through their deception tactics, the FARC has garnered support internationally as well as from Colombia’s rural poor.

Established in the 1960s as part of the Colombian Communist Party, the FARC has characterized itself as a modern-day Robin Hood – the organization supposedly takes from the rich and gives to the poor. However, atrocities committed by the FARC include recruiting children as young as 11 years old, and sexually assaulting and forcing abortion upon female recruits.  The FARC is funded through extortion, kidnapping ransoms and the illegal narcotics trade. The organization is also one of the biggest players in the importation of cocaine into the United States, and routinely takes innocent hostages.

United States President George W. Bush has vowed to honor US support for Colombia in their fight against the FARC. (While I am not quite sure that his intentions are completely humanitarian, this at least shows the nation’s support for Colombia.) President Bush said the most important thing the United States can do to help Colombia is to foster a free trade agreement between the two countries.

This is not the best solution. If Colombia wishes to participate in free trade with the United States, they should be allowed to do so, but with Bush’s affirmation that free trade is the way to go, the United States has taken a typically economic and self-centered view of its relationship with Colombia. (Many people are unaware that Colombia is a large supplier of oil to the United States.)

United States policy regarding Colombia has often been self-centered at best, and has not benefited Colombian citizens. Plan Colombia, with its goals of the eradication of coca fields (and thus, a proposed decrease in cocaine importation to the United States), has been put under harsh criticisms. My opinion is that this policy, which ruined not only coca fields, but also legal crops, contributed to the support from the rural poor in Colombia for the FARC.

The best way to help Colombia at this time is to help stabilize the nation. Colombia has undergone a more than 40-year civil war. No economic solution will benefit Colombia until the nation is able to stabilize itself politically. In fact, a free trade agreement will likely fuel the FARC’s fire even more and contribute to the FARC’s image in many countries as a celebrated revolutionary organization that is fighting against corrupt capitalist government.

One way the United States can help stabilize Colombia is by fighting for equality for Colombia’s poor. Without the support of the poor rural farmers in Colombia, who have suffered losses due to the American- led “War on Drugs,” the FARC will continue to rally support from this group. To cut off this support will help stabilize the country and will weaken the FARC’s recruitment and morale (many of the FARC’s recruits are poor rural citizens).

Another solution is to discontinue American support for the FARC.

United States citizens support the FARC daily by buying and using cocaine. The illegal drug trade is at the heart of the FARC. To cut this supply of money to the FARC would greatly reduce their effectiveness.

Sadly, it is the United States who plays a large role in Colombia’s problems. Plan Colombia backfired, and the United States is still a heavy consumer of illegal narcotics. While the United States has made feint attempts to correct this problem, they took the wrong approach by punishing poor farmers who only raised drugs to survive and support their families. While the United States and Colombia should not condone those who produce illegal drugs, they should have taken a more comprehensive approach to the problem. Instead of fixing the sources of the problems (drug consumption in the United States and poverty in Colombia), they have exacerbated both by ignoring them.