How your toothbrush became a part of the plastic crisis

bamboo.jpg

Bamboo toothbrushes are affordable! This writer is going to try one.

Written by Alejandra Borunda in the National Geographic: At first, years ago, it was just an occasional piece of plastic trash that Kahi Pacarro, the founder of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, picked up on the beach cleanups he organized around the state. A straw here, a takeout container there. But one day Pacarro spotted something particularly surprising in the beach detritus: a toothbrush.

Now, in any given Hawaii beach cleanup, he says, it’s not uncommon to pick up 20 or even 100 toothbrushes.

The reason is simple. The total number of plastic toothbrushes being produced, used, and thrown away each year has grown steadily since the first one was made in the 1930s.” Continue reading

Eat Veggie Burgers and Save the Planet!

Image thanks to Taste of Home

Image thanks to Taste of Home

From The Week Magazine: Adapted from an article that originally appeared in Politico Magazine.

Politicians often rally their supporters with partisan red meat, but these days Republicans are using actual red meat. They're accusing Democrats of a plot to ban beef, trying to rebrand the "Green New Deal" for climate action as a nanny-state assault on the American diet. At a rally in Michigan, President Donald Trump portrayed a green dystopia with "no more cows." In a recent Washington speech, former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka warned conservatives that leftists are coming for their hamburgers: "This is what Stalin dreamt about, but never achieved!" Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) actually ate a burger during a press conference on Capitol Hill, an activity he claimed would be illegal under a Green New Deal.

In reality, nobody's banning beef. Rep. Al­ex­an­dria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the driving force behind the Green New Deal, really did suggest that "maybe we shouldn't be eating a hamburger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner," and her office did release (and then retract) a fact sheet implying a desire to "get rid of farting cows." But the actual Green New Deal resolution calls only for dramatic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. It says nothing about seizing steaks, and no Demo­crats are pushing to confiscate cows, regardless of their tailpipe emissions.

This Washington stir over the burger police is classic political theater, the latest tribal skirmish in America's partisan culture wars. But livestock really do have a serious impact on the climate — and the extreme rhetoric about cow farts and rounding up ranchers is obscuring a consequential debate over the future of animal agriculture in general and beef in particular. Red meat has a greater impact on the climate than any other food; if the world's cattle formed their own nation, it would have the third-highest emissions on Earth, behind only China and the United States. Continue reading

16-year-old autistic teenager takes on climate change policy. Inspirational story for taking action on issues that affect our lives.

Image of Greta Thunberg from commondreams.org

Image of Greta Thunberg from commondreams.org

From The Week magazine:

“A Swedish teenager with autism is trying to shame adults into action. Here's everything you need to know:

Who is she?
Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old Swedish schoolgirl whose "School Strike for Climate" campaign has sparked a global youth movement involving hundreds of thousands of teenagers in more than 100 countries. In the past few months, she has met with Pope Francis and addressed the EU, the U.N., and the British Parliament. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, she told corporate executives and political leaders that their greed was robbing her generation of its future. For every audience, she delivers the same blunt message, drawing on last year's alarming report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "Around the year 2030, 10 years, 252 days, and 10 hours away from now," she told Parliament last week in perfect English, "we will be in a position where we set off an irreversible chain reaction beyond human control." If adult leaders don't act, she says, their "irresponsible behavior will no doubt be remembered in history as one of the greatest failures of humankind." “ Continue reading

EU Parliament bans single-use plastics in overwhelming vote

The European Parliament has voted 560 to 35 in favour of banning 10 single-use plastics.    Source:  AAP

The European Parliament has voted 560 to 35 in favour of banning 10 single-use plastics.

Source: AAP

From SBS News: “Single-use plastic items such as straws, forks and knives as well as cotton buds will be banned in the European Union by 2021 following a vote by EU lawmakers as the bloc pushes manufacturers to step up their recycling efforts.

Growing concerns about plastic pollution in oceans and stories of dead whales with plastic in their stomachs, together with China's decision to stop processing waste, have prompted the EU to take more drastic steps to tackle the issue.” Continue to see a great video and read the rest of the article.

From NPR: Thousands Wait In Juárez, Mexico, For A Chance At Sanctuary In The U.S.

Juan Fierro García runs a migrant shelter in Juárez, Mexico, that houses asylum-seekers. Here, he joins in prayer with migrants from Central America, Cuba and Africa.   Lorne Matalon for NPR

Juan Fierro García runs a migrant shelter in Juárez, Mexico, that houses asylum-seekers. Here, he joins in prayer with migrants from Central America, Cuba and Africa.

Lorne Matalon for NPR

“The city of Juárez, Mexico, across the border from El Paso, Texas, has long been a migrant gateway to the United States.

In mid-May, Mexican authorities said at least 14,500 asylum-seekers either have passed through Juárez on their way to the U.S. or were still waiting in Juárez for their opportunity to apply.

A large share of the migrant flow is coming from Cuba and Central America. But Juárez has also become a destination for people fleeing any number of conflicts and oppression around the world. That includes people from Africa.

In one Juárez migrant shelter, El Albergue Buen Pastor, or the Good Shepherd Shelterpeople from Honduras, Guatemala, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela have been passing through in recent months.

The migration mosaic here, however, is changing. It now includes people from at least three African countries: Angola, Uganda and Cameroon.” To listen to story or read on

How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about

Photo by Benjamin C. Tankersley/For The Washington Post

Photo by Benjamin C. Tankersley/For The Washington Post

By Michael Cohen in The Washington Post: “Several industries have become notorious for the millions they spend on influencing legislation and getting friendly candidates into office: Big Oil, Big Pharma and the gun lobby among them. But one has managed to quickly build influence with comparatively little scrutiny: Private prisons. The two largest for-profit prison companies in the United States – GEO and Corrections Corporation of America – and their associates have funneled more than $10 million to candidates since 1989 and have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts. Meanwhile, these private companies have seen their revenue and market share soar. They now rake in a combined $3.3 billion in annual revenue and the private federal prison population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute. Private companies house nearly half of the nation’s immigrant detainees, compared to about 25 percent a decade ago, a Huffington Post report found. In total, there are now about 130 private prisons in the country with about 157,000 beds.” Continue reading

Desperation drives poor Guatemalans to migrate north

Ana Jorge Jorge holding a nephew. She sees no future for her only surviving son in their Guatemalan village.CreditCreditDaniele Volpe for The New York Times

Ana Jorge Jorge holding a nephew. She sees no future for her only surviving son in their Guatemalan village.CreditCreditDaniele Volpe for The New York Times


From a New York Times piece written by Nicholas Kristof

NENTÓN, Guatemala — To understand why President Trump’s new sanctions and other flailing to end Central American immigration aren’t working, step into the dark, melancholy hovel of Ana Jorge Jorge.

She lives in Guatemala’s western highlands in the hillside village of Canquintic, near the town of Nentón, and she’s a widow because of the American dream.

Her husband, Mateo Gómez Tadeo, borrowed thousands of dollars and migrated north to the United States several years ago after his crops here failed. He found work in Alabama cutting flowers but then caught an infection and died, leaving hungry children back home and a huge debt hanging over the family. Continue reading


How the U.S. government deliberately made the migrant journey in the borderlands very dangerous and deadly.

Photo thanks to AZ Central

Photo thanks to AZ Central

From The New York Times: “There is a crisis unfolding at the border — but it’s not the “criminal invasion” that Donald Trump would have you believe. Every day, migrants lost in the borderland deserts call 911 in the hopes of avoiding the gruesome fate of thousands of crossers before them.” Continue reading

Resilience, faith, and social supports among migrants and refugees from Central America and Mexico

US-Mexico border image thanks to Reuters.

US-Mexico border image thanks to Reuters.

This article is written by Social Justice team member Mark Lusk and several others in the Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health.

Migrants flee violence, extortion, assault and kidnapping in Central America and Mexico to make the dangerous journey to the U.S. – Mexico border. They experience trauma and adversity at each stage of the journey – prior to departure, enroute, and upon arrival at the border. This mixed methods research project examines protective factors that mediate trauma and support quality of life among migrants. Despite high levels of post-traumatic stress, migrants score high on measures of resilience and quality of life. Participants expressed high levels of religiosity and utilize faith as a coping strategy to lend meaning to their hardship and suffering.

Migration through and from Mexico to the U.S. – Mexico border region is fraught with risks to personal safety, mental health, and well-being. Circumstances in the countries of origin, such as widespread violence, criminal activity, and socio-political instability, have led many thousands of individuals and families to make the difficult decision to leave their homes and undertake a dangerous journey toward what they believe to be a safer place because they feel that they have no alternative. Upon arrival to the border region the difficulties often persist as they may be met with unemployment, immigration detention, discrimination or deportation. As a result, many migrants are exposed to traumatic experiences including assault, kidnapping, sexual violence, human trafficking, and extortion. Despite exposure to great adversity, forced migrants display remarkable resilience, strong connections to migrant networks, and are strengthened by deeply held personal faith (Flores-Yeffal, 2013Flores-Yeffal, N. Y. (2013).  Continue reading

How Climate Change Is Fueling the U.S. Border Crisis. From the New Yorker

From Mongabay.com

From Mongabay.com

In the center of Climentoro, in the western highlands of Guatemala, a dozen large white houses rise above the village’s traditional wooden huts like giant monuments. The structures are made of concrete and fashioned with archways, colonnaded porches, and elaborate moldings. “Most of them are empty,” Feliciano Pérez, a local farmer, told me. Their owners, who live in the U.S., had sent money home to build American-inspired houses for when they returned, but they never did. Pérez gestured to a three-story house topped with a faux-brick chimney. “No one lives there,” he said. The family of twelve had migrated a few years ago, leaving the vacant construction behind. “Vecinos fantasmas,” Pérez called them—ghost neighbors.

Pérez, who is thirty-five, is short and lean, with dark, weathered skin and metal caps on his front teeth. He wore a baseball cap mottled in camouflage and emblazoned with the words “Proud Marine Dad.” “It was about six years ago that things started to change,” he said. Climentoro had always been poor. Residents depended on the few crops that could survive at an elevation of more than nine thousand feet, harvesting maize to feed their families and selling potatoes for a small profit. But, Pérez said, the changing climate was wiping out the region’s crops. “In the higher part of town, there have been more frosts than there used to be, and they kill an entire harvest in one fell swoop,” he said. “In the lower part of Climentoro, there’s been much less rain and new sorts of pests.” He added, “Farmers have been abandoning their land.”

In February, citing a “national-security crisis on our southern border,” Donald Trump declared a state of emergency, a measure that even members of Congress from his own party rejected. Three months earlier, with much less fanfare, thirteen federal agencies issued a landmark report about the damage wrought by climate change. In a sixteen-hundred-page analysis, government scientists described wildfires in California, the collapse of infrastructure in the South, crop shortages in the Midwest, and catastrophic flooding. The President publicly dismissed the findings. “As to whether or not it’s man-made and whether or not the effects that you’re talking about are there, I don’t see it,” he said. There was a deeper layer of denial in this, since overlooking these effects meant turning a blind eye to one of the major forces driving migration to the border. “There are always a lot of reasons why people migrate,” Yarsinio Palacios, an expert on forestry in Guatemala, told me. “Maybe a family member is sick.  Continue reading

Team member Kathy Staudt honored by Association of Borderland Scholars

Reconocen a ex docente de UTEP con globo de cristal

Reconocen a ex docente de UTEP con globo de cristal

From El Diario de El Paso: “La Asociación de Estudios Fronterizos (ABS) presentó su Premio a la Trayectoria a la doctora Kathleen “Kathy” Staudt, de la Universidad de Texas en El Paso (UTEP), durante su reunión anual el 26 de abril en San Diego.

Los organizadores otorgaron a Staudt un globo de cristal que mostraba los continentes sin fronteras entre países. La nativa de Milwaukee, Wisconsin, dijo que el reconocimiento era importante para ella porque pertenecía a la generación de mujeres que trabajaron muy duro en el mundo académico en campos dominados por hombres. Recordó que a menudo era la única mujer en la mayoría de los paneles en conferencias en el país y en el extranjero.

“He trabajado arduamente con otros para hacer que el ABS sea más receptivo para las académicas, para participar en los paneles de ‘estudios de género en la frontera’ y para el desarrollo de nuevos conceptos que abarquen las diferentes experiencias de hombres y mujeres que cruzan y viven en las fronteras”, dijo Staudt. “Así, el premio se convirtió en una validación de este trabajo”.” Continue reading

Are Plastic Bag Bans Garbage? From NPR's Planet Money

Photo thanks to MPR News

Photo thanks to MPR News

It was only about 40 years ago that plastic bags became standard at U.S. grocery stores. This also made them standard in sewers, landfills, rivers and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. They clog drains and cause floods, litter landscapes and kill wildlife. The national movement to get rid of them is gaining steam — with more than 240 cities and counties passing laws that ban or tax them since 2007. New York recently became the second U.S. state to ban them. But these bans may be hurting the environment more than helping it.

University of Sydney economist Rebecca Taylor started studying bag regulations because it seemed as though every time she moved for a new job — from Washington, D.C., to California to Australia — bag restrictions were implemented shortly after. "Yeah, these policies might be following me," she jokes. Taylor recently published a study of bag regulations in California. It's a classic tale of unintended consequences.

Paper or plastic? Continue reading

Comprehensive Immigration Forum was informative for the large group that attended

Many thanks to team member Mark Lusk for organizing the forum, and to the speakers Josiah Heyman, Marisa Limón and Carlos Spector. The speakers discussed the challenges of dealing with the current border humanitarian crisis. They pointed out the need to emphasize that immigrants are a positive force in the United States and that it is not in the best interest of our country to demonize them. The panel presented various proposals to achieve the long-desired objective of reaching a consensus on comprehensive immigration reform.

May 19 forum: Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Toward a Just and Rational Immigration Policy

Comprehensive Immigration Reform.jpg

Three local experts outline the parameters of a positive comprehensive immigration reform plan

Josiah Heyman - Professor and Director, UTEP Center for Inter American and Border Studies

Marisa Limón - Deputy Director - Hope Border Institute

Carlos Spector - Immigration Attorney, El Paso

Moderated by Mark Lusk, UTEP Professor of Social Work

The U.S. immigration system has been broken for decades.  These local experts

will outline the parameters of a positive comprehensive immigration reform plan.

Sunday May 19, 2:30-4 pm

Maud Sullivan Room of El Paso Public Library (downtown)

501 N. Oregon

Parking Note:  Best bet to find free parking is to park somewhere north

and east of the library and away from the ballpark. 

Why Central Americans migrate and how the rest of us should treat them

From Mexico News Daily:   Migrants migrate to escape unlivable homelands, such as Honduras.

From Mexico News Daily: Migrants migrate to escape unlivable homelands, such as Honduras.

By Sarah DeVries in Mexico News Daily:

“Humans have always migrated, so the best solution is improve conditions migrants are escaping…. Sometimes when reading about current events I have the sensation that we’ve been erroneously sucked into some horrible dimension where nothing works the way it’s supposed to and everything is just terrible.

The general humanitarian crisis of millions of people around the world doing whatever they can to escape unlivable homelands for unwelcoming new ones is among the things that most produces this feeling.

Migrant caravans with participants numbering in the thousands have been making their way up and across Mexico toward the United States, only to get backed up at ports of entry or tossed back over the border to “wait their turn,” as if Mexico were an independently-run waiting room.

Those “turns” can take months to come up, as it’s obvious that the U.S. policy for now is to discourage them from applying in the first place (by law it is their right to do so). It’s not fair to Mexico, and it’s not fair to the migrants, though you could argue that the moving pieces, though in most ways powerless, are the ones that most have agency in the situation.

That said, they’re doing what any one of us would do. We want to live in peace, we want our families to live in peace, and we especially want our children to at least have a chance at success and happiness.

But what’s in the rule book here? What do people only slightly better off owe to the desperate, especially when they weren’t the ones to decide to let them through their lives and communities?

All in all, though, there has been some grumbling, Mexicans have been good sports and seem to be doing their best to be generous and hospitable, as these are fairly well-cemented cultural characteristics.

But everyone has their limits, and reports suggest that resentment among the hardest hit (those in tiny towns along the southern border and those in big cities along the northern border) is starting to build, not to mention a growing panic about how they will sustain continuing waves of people (especially considering the added economic hardship caused by long delays at the border, a topic for another column).” Continue reading


May 19 forum: Comprehensive Immigration Reform: Toward a Just and Rational Immigration Policy

Comprehensive Immigration Reform.jpg

Three local experts outline the parameters of a positive comprehensive immigration reform plan

Josiah Heyman - Professor and Director, UTEP Center for Inter American and Border Studies

Marisa Limón - Deputy Director - Hope Border Institute

Carlos Spector - Immigration Attorney, El Paso

Moderated by Mark Lusk, UTEP Professor of Social Work

The U.S. immigration system has been broken for decades.  These local experts

will outline the parameters of a positive comprehensive immigration reform plan.

Sunday May 19, 2:30-4 pm

Maud Sullivan Room of El Paso Public Library (downtown)

501 N. Oregon

Parking Note:  Best bet to find free parking is to park somewhere north

and east of the library and away from the ballpark. 

Help decide the future of Northwest El Paso land and Lost Dog Trail

Photo by Jorge Salgado

Photo by Jorge Salgado

Written by David Crowder in The El Paso Inc.

Early voting for the May 4 elections starts Monday, and on the ballot is a rare voter-initiated proposition to stop the development of 1,007 acres the city has had big plans for in Northwest El Paso.

The proposition will let voters do what El Paso City Council members do when they approve or reject an ordinance. But this one took two petition drives and 3,800 signatures to reach the ballot.

It’s a skimpy ballot, but also includes, depending on where you live, elections for the El Paso Community College Board of Trustees and four school districts – El Paso, Ysleta, Socorro and San Elizario – along with Horizon City’s mayor and Town Council.

The 1,007 acres have 25 miles of trails worn by use or cleared by volunteers, including the popular Lost Dog Trail, just off Redd Road where it turns into Northern Pass Drive.

The land is undeveloped and belongs to the Public Service Board, which oversees El Paso Water, and the city has never spent public money to alter or maintain it.

That’s how supporters of the proposition want to keep it.

But the city has had detailed plans for the development of much of that area for more than a decade and has moved ahead with the creation of a tax increment reinvestment zone, or TIRZ, to help that development. Continue reading