Plastic Pollution: Where do we Stand?

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It’s 2019 and at this point, we all know that much of the human impact on our fragile planet comes from pollution. Our landfills are overflowing, and we haven’t successfully dealt with carbon emissions, toxic runoff from farm and lawn fertilizers, pesticides, manufacturing byproducts, mining waste, or the pollutants created by energy generation and transportation.

We’re introducing unwanted material to the biosphere at an ever-growing rate and we haven’t yet found the brake pedal, much less put it to use. One of the most depressing topics under this subheading can be summed up in a word: plastic.

The issue of environmental plastic is depressing, and in many ways paralyzing, for a simple reason. Each of us personally contributes to the problem every single day, and none of us know how to stop.

One Problem at a Time

Here at Just Atonement, we recognize that the problems are of the world are vast. So vast that in some cases, the metrics and charts that detail a given crisis contain numbers incomprehensible to the human mind. How many is a billion? How about 200 billion? How many children go hungry each night in conflict zones? How many people die of cholera each year due to a lack of clean water? How many grains of wheat are required to sustain a population of millions? How many years, months and days must pass before a nation is held accountable for a war crime? These numbers are available, but for most of us, they still somehow lie just out of reach. We can see the charts with our eyes, but we still can’t fully comprehend what they mean.

So it goes with plastic and the planet. A single coffee lid or plastic straw will lie on the sand for thousands of years. It will never disappear, generation after generation, lifetime after lifetime. One busy moment at a coffee shop, a single forgotten morning on the way to work, will leave this legacy for millennia. The giant garbage gyres made of such straws and lids are so vast that a two-day drive across a state like Texas still can’t cover their width. Our minds can’t typically process this, and since we need to get to work, the straw goes into the trash, the moment is forgotten and the day goes on. Since we don’t know how to prevent, slow, or comprehend the numerical extremes that lie within this series of events, we don’t want to try.

That’s normal.

But if we don’t, nobody else will.

So What, Then?

There is a way around this obstacle. The path is rocky and steep and the outcome is—so far—not guaranteed, but the road has two lanes: personal changes and policy changes. We can work hard to apply cultural pressures that convince our fellow consumers and ourselves to reject single-use plastic even when it’s available and convenient. And we can advocate and vote for policies that will remove plastic options from our lives, making them less available and thereby making individual smart choices easier.

But to get to either one, we need something that many of us struggle with: courage. That’s where organizations like Just Atonement can help. To move forward with either path, we need to overcome the paralysis and hopelessness that make us scroll past articles like this one  and this one. We need to trust ourselves, have faith, believe that our actions will create real change and then….take those actions.

Contemplating a sea turtle choking on our coffee shop straw is NOT pleasant. But contemplate it we must, before we use the straw and—most important-- before we refuse to think about it. Easy? No. But possible? We work every day to keep our eyes fixed on a distant future where sustainability is real, peace is attainable, and humans can live without fear, injustice, or a lack of access to resources, and we believe it IS possible.

If you’re looking for ways to gather your courage and help us find a path to that future, please contact our team today!

Over Three Million Refugees Leaving Venezuela, Carrying Global Questions and Answers

Through years of legal activism and engagement with both scientific and political data gathered from around the world, we recognize two major problems facing the planet over the coming decades: climate change and socio-political upheaval. We also recognize that these two forces are directly related. Together, these two can potentially destabilize a variety of systems from infrastructure to food distribution networks, but the first and most daunting challenge they present is already upon us and already requires immediate global attention: involuntary human migration.

Preparing an Appropriate Response  

Before the international community can anticipate and prepare for massive unpredictable population shifts, we must observe and gather information from shifts that are already underway. So as 3.4 million refugees and asylum seekers leave the turmoil surrounding them in Venezuela, the international community bears two key responsibilities. First, neighboring nations must find ways to manage and accommodate this influx. In this case, the largest number of migrants have been hosted by Columbia (1.1 million), followed by Peru (0.5 million), Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil. A smaller number of migrants have been accepted by Mexico and countries in Central America.

Second, nations everywhere must observe and monitor how these countries process, shelter, and assimilate this spike in asylum seekers without slipping into the grip of a humanitarian crisis. Calling for compassion first and sanctions second when faced with a neighbor in turmoil can help, according to this UN human rights expert. https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/01/1031722 So can the development of stable channels and precedents for the delivery of humanitarian aid, as outlined in this report.

If neighboring nations gather data and examine best practices, the transfer and assimilation of large migratory populations can take place in the future with a minimal amount of uncertainty, danger, and threats to the most vulnerable, including children, the elderly and the disabled. A study of best practices can also reduce the threat of violence, including trafficking and sexual assault, that can often occur when border crossings and processing procedures are chaotic and disorganized.

Why is this research important?

While the best response to any political or environmental crisis is advanced preparation and prevention, an unpreventable crisis can bring valuable lessons that allow the global community to prepare for a recurrence of similar events, from political turmoil to other drivers of migration, including natural disasters and disease outbreaks.

What we learn today from the events in Venezuela can help us prepare for both the challenges of climate change and the politically destabilizing events that may take place at the same time. Please join us as we follow the decisions and actions of the UN and those of South American nations facing a spike in permanent and temporary refugees.  

Statement on March 15, 2019 killings in Christchurch, NZ

We at Just Atonement Inc. share the sadness and shock of those mourning the victims of the terrorist incident in Christchurch, New Zealand.

We condemn as outrageous any acts of terrorism committed against any targeted group. In this case, a declared “white-ethno-eco-nationalist” committed international crimes against innocent people, for the avowed purpose of inciting a global race war and destroying democratic freedoms.

Just Atonement Inc. extends its condolences to all those affected by the trauma of this terrorist attack.

Just Atonement Inc. also calls for the fullest prosecution under law, with due process, for the accused.

Finally, Just Atonement Inc. urges all governments to act, immediately, to prevent terrorist attacks like this from taking place in the future — which includes taking measures to defend our democratic freedoms, respect for the rule of law, extending equal opportunity to all, and mitigating the global environmental breakdown now taking place. Democracy can no longer be equated with war corporatism and eco-annihilation. We must return to the roots of democracy as a people, as a species: defending fundamental rights, providing resources for all, sustaining global peace, and living in harmony with Nature.

Until and unless the underlying causes of terrorism are addressed, our world will continue to see heinous acts of violence — by both lone gunmen and governments — for the foreseeable future.

We pray for all those affected.

On behalf of Just Atonement Inc.,

/s/ Inder Comar

Executive Director

Human Rights and Global Justice: A Never-Ending Goal

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In the midst of an encounter with atrocity or injustice, a community leader, an advocate, or a witness may be overwhelmed by a single goal: to bring the crisis to end. The motivating force for action in that moment may be short-term and ultimately attainable. If a migrant population is under assault or a marginalized group is threatened, it’s easy to recognize a simple need: bring relief to the suffering and bring the perpetrators to justice.

But what then?  

A true resolution involves an analysis of why the crisis occurred in the first place. The analysis must be followed by meaningful action to prevent a resurgence of the same circumstances. And since the forces that lead to global injustice are rarely simple, a perfect repetition of the same events will likely never happen. Instead, despite deep analysis and careful preparation, the next such crisis will still seem to arise without warning. And the next. And the next.

In fact, most experts on the subject of global justice seem to agree that the forces that contribute to oppression, unjust resource distribution and involuntary migration are rising at this point in history, not diminishing. From a spike in authoritarian governance to climate change, the factors that bring trouble are not decreasing with each lesson learned, but are instead gathering on the horizon like a dark cloud.

As we witness the annual arrival of Holocaust Remembrance Day, we’re once again faced with a difficult question: How can we declare “never again” in the face of injustice and truly follow through on that promise?

Like a boat on the sea, we are lifted and dropped by the currents that surround us. We can’t hold a fixed position, but we can learn to recognize the rhythms behind each shift, anticipate, respond, remain flexible and remain ever-vigilant. We can accept, as the Talmud instructs us, that we are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are we free to abandon it.

Here’s a beautiful example of a person who has “not become daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief”. This is an inspiring interview with Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile and the newly confirmed UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.  

As Bachelet discusses implementing global systems and leveraging the existing resources of the Human Rights Council, recognize that her history includes detention and torture under the Pinochet regime in Chile, and note how far she has come from the rage that once burned at the core of her search for justice.

Though it is driven by chaos, rage and grief, the path to peace is a structured process. Resilience and determined forward motion are essential, even if the final destination seems always just out of reach.

Please join us on this path! Contact our team to help us maintain steady global progress toward a better and safer world.

Birth Rates and Population Growth: How Many People can the Planet Support?

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When we talk about the future of democracy, the future of social institutions, and the future of the environment, we recognize that there are some trend lines that run beneath all three and these trends will have a driving impact one each future individually and on all of them combined.

One of these may seem, at a glance, to be the simplest trend line of all: fertility and birthrates.

The bottom line on birthrates looks simple at a glance. Measuring the number of literal people in the world is easier than aggregating all the complex metrics that contribute to, say, the global economy. How fast is the population increasing? Is it too fast or not fast enough for sustainability?

But of course nothing is as simple as it seems. A rapidly falling birthrate in one country may generate worries about that country’s tax and labor base, but globally, this drop may be offset by a spike in another region that welcomes a burgeoning labor force but worries about resource availability.

Are there too many people? Are there not enough people? A yes or no answer simply won’t suffice.

The best way to get to the bottom of this puzzle is to gather all the data available—not one trend line, but dozens of them—and draw what conclusions we can by weighing each against the others. In the US, the population has trended precipitously upward in recent decades, but much of the increase has been due to immigration, not birth. In good news for the environment, US birthrates have slowly trended down, but not in all age demographics.  

And before we can cheer or worry over a specific data point, it’s a good idea to settle on a shared definition of “sustainable” rates. Those who would like to see a robust labor force see gloom in every dip, but those concerned about water resources in southwestern population centers might worry if birthrates inch too high before water and agricultural problems can be solved.

And of course, the subject of “correct” family size is both emotional and personal, even as personal decisions, cultural trends, and the reasons behind the trends shift from year to year. For example, some women may choose to have fewer children than they actually want due to economic pressures and concerns about college tuition and childcare costs. But within a year or decade, specific concerns give way to others, and the priorities and life-stage of a potential parent evolve and change over time. Throughout the fertile years of a person’s life, factors that drive birth decisions change as the landscape changes.

But as it happens, each person’s decision to have children will have a long-term impact on all of us. That impact is hidden somewhere in a vast field of population data.

Here are a few quick fertility-trend overviews provided by the Pew Research Center:

http://www.pewresearch.org/topics/birth-rate-and-fertility/

Here’s a review of total birth rates by country in 2018 from the World Population Review:

http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/total-fertility-rate/

Here are a few policy suggestions to combat declining birth rates, provided by the NIH:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4255510/

Here’s an HHS manuscript summarizing research on the links between population and the environment:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2792934/

For more ways to engage with this topic and support our efforts to build a sustainable world, contact the team at Just Atonement.