Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Community Versus Commodity

Community Versus Commodity
by C.A. Matthews
The more you study a problem, the more facets of it you see.
We come into this world assuming that we’ll be able to breathe. If we’re fortunate, we take that first big gulp of air and let out a long, piercing wail much to the relief of our parents. If we need a little help, we are fortunate someone is there to help us take that first breath, changing our skin tone from bluish to pinkish. The same with water and food. We open our mouths to latch on to a nipple and find liquid nourishment right away, or we will at some point even if we have to spend our early days in an incubator connected to an IV.
Sad to say, these natural instincts are all based on a false assumption. 

Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, the former chairman and CEO of NestlĂ© Corporation, the world’s biggest bottler of water, once called the idea that water is a human right "extreme."  People like him see a basic necessity such as water as a commodity. Water, air, food, landnone of these belong to us, to be shared and used for the good of all. These commodities belong only to those who can afford to pay for them—or take them by force from others.
We erroneously assume we have  the “right” to live, grow and thrive. Alas, we do not, particularly if we're unable to purchase these basic necessities under our current system of capitalism. We’ve been told that the right to exist, evolve and flourish can't be extended to other living and growing things such as ecosystems, forests, islands, lakes, rivers and streams, either.

Some brave souls do not agree with this narrow-minded view and have begun to fight back. They're boldly asserting their right to democracy, voicing their opinions and placing citizens' initiatives on the ballot. Unfortunately, the status quo won't take this lying down.
I think of this struggle as "The community versus those who label the basic necessities of life as commodity." Others call it standing up for Rights of Nature.
Stories about communities fighting for their right not to have their clean air, land and water sold off to the highest bidder have made it into the mainstream media recently. Of course, the mainstream media exists for the sole purpose to commoditize things in order to generate profits for their owners. So, it’s no surprise that mainstream reportage tends to be slanted in the direction of, “Look at these eccentric/dangerous/weird people who say they want their water supply/air/land to be clean and free of toxic chemicals. How bizarre/terrorist-like/funny is that?"
But these eccentric/dangerous/weird communities aren’t giving up. They assert they have the right to exist and not be poisoned by outsiders who barge into their community to take resources and pollute it in order to make profits. These communities insist that the local ecosystem also has rights, because one cannot divorce the community from the natural world in which the members of that community live. Perhaps the most dangerous idea is that these communities actually believe they have the right to not to be turned into paupers by those who believe their fat offshore bank accounts matter more than others' rights.
The following story links give examples of communities taking on the uncaring commodity-driven capitalist system. Note how members of these communities are fighting for the very basic necessities of life that we all assume at birth are our rights as human beings—clean, non-toxic air, land and water. They're confronting very powerful forces in both international commerce and government, and risking their health, finances and reputations in the process

But what other choice do they have if they wish to survive?
The Second Battle of Lake Erie 

Main page for Toledoans for Safe Water. The Lake Erie Bill of Rights, the first Rights of Nature law passed in the US, is still in the courts. Both Big Ag and Big Oil interests can't do enough to thwart it--with the aid of the State of Ohio. You can read about TSW activities here at the TRC blog by doing a search using the hashtag "LEBOR." The following piece demonstrates who these bold environmental activists are really up against: https://bernie2016.blogspot.com/2019/04/revealing-real-out-of-town-extremists.html

This piece by the Chicago Tribune on Lake Erie has excellent photography and graphs which explains the science behind the toxic algal blooms.

Ohio organizers speak about their recent experiences to inspire a Florida community fighting to protect its water from toxic algae blooms.
"Although two of Toledo’s better-known attorneys expressed sharp differences over the legal merits of the Lake Erie Bill of Rights on Friday, they found common ground on the notion that the controversial document has inspired more people to protect the world’s 11th largest body of fresh surface water."

David Takes On Goliath--and Is Forced to Pay the Frackers $75,000

Settlement Announced with Oil and Gas Seeking Monetary Award:  Ban Against Injection Wells Continue in Grant Township, PA. 

Yes, you read that right. Big Oil forced citizens of a poor rural area of Pennsylvania to pay the frackers off for the right to protect their own drinking water supply from fracking wastes.  They ended up settling out of court because Big Oil demanded over $600,000 at the start of the case. Threatening lawsuits are common tactics used by big corporations to bully communities into submission.

From the "Never Keep a Treaty with an Indigenous People" Files 

It's not only the US government that doesn't recognize the rights of indigenous people to live unmolested on their native soil. The Australian state of Queensland has given Aboriginal lands to a coal mining corporation to mine without any public announcement. The community, however, will not keep silent on this matter.

"The Tomb" (photo by ABC Australia)
Radiation Continues Long After the Cold War on the Marshall Islands

This LA Times article features poignant photography and good reporting. You will be shocked at the callousness of the US government's treatment of the Marshallese over the past seven decades. And it's far from over with the coming of rising ocean levels. The islanders will have to fight hard to receive the help they deserve and recompense for their radiated homeland.
The Marshall Islands say that plutonium is leaking into the Pacific Ocean from the concrete dome the U.S. built to dispose of nuclear waste.
During the Cold War, the United States nuked the Marshall Islands 67 times. After it finished nuking the islands, the Pentagon dropped biological weapons on the islands. Once the U.S. was finished, it scooped the irradiated and ruined soil from the islands, poured it into a crater left behind from a nuclear detonation, mixed it all with concrete, and covered the whole thing in a concrete dome. They called it “The Tomb.” According to a report from The Los Angeles Times, climate change is breaking that dome open. Rising sea levels and temperatures are cracking open The Tomb, threatening to spill nuclear waste into the Pacific Ocean.

The Marshall Islands is a collection of 29 atolls across 1,156 islands. More than 50,000 people live on the islands. From 1946 to 1958, it was a proving ground for America’s nuclear arsenal. On March 1, 1954, the Pentagon conducted Castle Bravo and detonated a 15 megaton thermonuclear warhead over the Bikini Atoll. It was the largest nuclear weapon the U.S. ever detonated. The fallout from the explosion rained down on the people of the Marshall Islands. 
It was only a matter of two or three years before women on the island started to give birth to things less than human,” a Marshall Islands woman told diplomats on a fact finding mission decades later. Birth defects are so common on the islands that the people have a number of words to describe them, among them marlins, devils, jellyfish children, and grape babies.

The U.S. has largely dismissed its responsibility to the Marshall Islands. It relocated many of its people and claims the cost of relocation and installation of The Tomb at the Enewetak Atoll covers its liability. As sea levels and temperatures rise, however, the Tomb is cracking. As it cracks, water rushes over it, leaching out plutonium and dumping it into the sea. 
The U.S. has said The Tomb is now the Marshall Islands’ responsibility.”

In each of these instances, the community has been wronged by powerful entities condoned by the government (or in the case of the Marshall Islands harmed by the government directly). This demonstrates how easily democracy is ignored whenever ecosystems are treated as commodities. Worst yet, the rights of the community members to exist and thrive are considered less important than private corporations' profits or the military-industrial complex's insatiable desires.

Communities can't hesitate. They must claim their right to take on all who see their home as a commodity.  After all, what other home do they have?

To understand more what is meant by "Rights of Nature," watch the following excellent TEDx talk. https://youtu.be/nItsO4vKb2Q

Tell Congress:
"We need Medicare for All NOW. By taking the extremely efficient administration of traditional Medicare, and improving it by eliminating copays and deductibles, and adding dental, vision, and long-term care insurance, we can build a health care system that doesn’t drive people into bankruptcy when they get sick."
As momentum has built for a Medicare for All system in America, so have the attacks. Now, a new report shows where these attacks are coming from: Investor-owned, for profit hospitals.1
Intercept: Documents reveal hospital industry is leading fight against Medicare for All
It’s no surprise that investor-owned hospitals are afraid of Medicare for All. Every plan is designed to lower the outrageous profit-seeking billing practices that have made American health care the most expensive in the world. 

Here’s the truth: If your business model is based on denying care, or overcharging sick people for lifesaving services and medicine, you won’t like Medicare for All.
But if you’re like most people, who want high quality care without going bankrupt, Medicare for All is going to be a godsend. By taking the extremely efficient administration of traditional Medicare, and improving it by eliminating copays and deductibles, and adding dental, vision, and long-term care insurance, we can build a health care system that doesn’t drive people into bankruptcy when they get sick. 

ADD YOUR NAME: It’s time for Medicare for All, now!
Medicare for All NOW Team 

From Fight for the Future:

We're now less than a year away from one of the most important elections of our lives, and you'll never guess who is running the digital election infrastructure for states across the country.
Amazon software will provide live election-night results.1 Amazon will maintain voter-registration data and voter lists. Even the federal agency in charge of enforcing election laws is using Amazon products.
Amazon has an awful track record on data security and civil liberties. We simply can't trust them to run our elections as well.
Will you donate to help launch our urgent campaign to demand that Congress investigate Amazon?

There are so many reasons why it's a bad idea to let Amazon run our elections: 

1. Amazon has a terrible track record for respecting privacy. Amazon's Alexa has been caught listening to our conversations and collecting data on us. 

Amazon Ring is partnering with local police departments to build a nationwide digital dragnet. Their racially biased facial-recognition technology threatens to create a 24-hour, 50-state, automated system of racial profiling. Can you imagine what they might do with a gold mine of data about our political views? 

2. Amazon is actively working to elect more pro-Amazon candidates. Last month, Amazon dumped $1.5 million into municipal elections in Seattle. In 2018, Amazon spent $13 million on campaign contributions to influence the outcome of the midterm elections. Now, at the same time that they are actively trying to influence the outcome of elections, they want us to trust them to run the election itself. 

3. Amazon is vulnerable to hackers. One of the reasons U.S. elections are hard to hack is because they are so decentralized, with each city and state running their own election process. Centralizing voter data and election results in one system means that hackers could upend our entire democracy by cracking into that single system. Capital One's database stored on Amazon's cloud service was hacked by a former Amazon employee, and voter information stored on Amazon's cloud has been repeatedly compromised.2
Amazon is already a threat to our economy, our homes, and our civil rights. We can't let them threaten our elections as well. 

Will you donate to help call on Congress to investigate Amazon before it's too late?
We will not be co-opted into the United States of Amazon. Give what you can to stop Amazon's interference in our democracy. 

Ayele at Fight for the Future

1. Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-elections-amazon-com-insight/how-amazon-com-moved-into-the-business-of-u-s-elections-idUSKBN1WU173
2. Reuters: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-elections-amazon-com-insight/how-amazon-com-moved-into-the-business-of-u-s-elections-idUSKBN1WU173
From the Coalition for Human Needs:

Trump’s attack on LGBTQ+ community rights is now threatening to deprive children in need of a loving home. A proposed rule would remove language protecting LGBTQ+ people and others from discrimination in foster care and adoption programs funded by grants from the Department of Health and Human Services. 

That means foster care and adoption agencies could continue getting taxpayer funding even if they exclude LGBTQ+ families and others from their services based on religious beliefs. This would block children from access to qualified, loving homes. 

And this won’t only hurt the more than 400,000 children in the US foster care system. According to the ACLU, Meals on Wheels and other HHS-funded community meal programs designed to support older adults could refuse to deliver food to older Americans who are Jewish, Muslim, or LGBTQ+. Additionally, Head Start grant recipients and other federally funded child care facilities could refuse to serve transgender youth and children with LGBTQ+ parents. 

This is an attack not only on the LGBTQ+ community, but on human needs. So join the Coalition on Human Needs and our partners to demand Congress block Trump’s anti-LGBTQ+ HHS rule. 


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