climate change

Plastic Pollution: Where do we Stand?

Screen Shot 2019-04-03 at 8.49.32 AM.png

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.  

The Options That Lie Ahead

Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 3.20.53 PM.png

This is an existentially stressful day. It’s Monday, July 16th, and as of last week, fresh evidence has been revealed that suggests a massive, cohesive effort to subvert democracy in the United States in 2016. The perpetrators of this effort are now meeting behind closed doors in a presumably friendly session with the political leader that the efforts successfully installed.

Meanwhile, the planet is warming in ways that will not likely be stopped or reversed, even in the event of globally unified, beautifully coordinated campaign, the odds of which are vanishingly slim. Capitalist pressures and disruptions to democratic systems are powerful forces that push back against this effort at every turn, by both deregulating industry and by breaking down a harmonious coordination between nations that might represent our last chance at salvation. The prospects for human health and prosperity during the second half of the 21st century are increasingly cloudy, and as resources diminish, desperation and its attendant scapegoating, panic and violence are likely to follow.

For reasons that may or may not be scientifically linked to this predictable set of events, birthrates are slowing, but no rate of reduction will likely be enough to forestall a spike in measurable human suffering that seems to lie on the horizon.

We are a product of the things that happen around us. No person is born into a world free of influences, and no person lives a life untouched and unshaped by their culture and circumstances. In other words, not a single one of us can opt out of whatever lies ahead. There is no exit from this ride; our only responses, reactions and choices will come from a menu of options, a menu which will become easier to read as time goes by.

Humanity will survive, of course: Humans have seen worse and have endured worse than what we are experiencing right now, and on every occasion so far we have emerged on the other side of change and hardship intact, if damaged by the experience. This will happen again. But on the path ahead, every one of us will be forced to adapt in one way or another. Here are some of the options and adaptations that seem to be appearing in front of us. Do any of them look familiar?

Selective consumption

Temperature increases around the globe appear linked to human activity, which seems to take one primary form above all others: consumption. “Activity” seems to be synonymous with making stuff, buying stuff, transporting stuff, using stuff, and throwing stuff away. Between food, plastic, travel, amusement, and personal comfort, stuff lies at the heart of the fossil fuel blaze that keeps us in motion, and pushing back against reckless consumption seems like a wise and promising personal choice. Saving our money and limiting plane flights, meat consumption, and plastic use seem like easy decisions with a measurable impact. Are they? Only time will tell, but many of us are leaning toward this option as a way of stemming the tide.  

Adoption

The choice to have children isn’t always considered a choice; for many of us, bringing children into the world is a biological drive as natural and urgent as preserving our own lives. But as birthrates drop, what becomes of this drive? There are still millions of children around the planet who need parents and don’t have them. And “adoption” can be considered a kind of metaphor. It’s a way of redirecting our energy toward protecting, preserving, and finding personal meaning in devotion to that which is already here.

Degrees of activism

It’s one thing to make a choice that protects the planet and the people around us. But it’s another thing altogether to take a leadership role in this process and extend our influence beyond ourselves. Activism means doing wise things, and then to encouraging and helping others to do those things as well. The only hurdle: activism requires effort, energy, and lots of typically uncompensated labor. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a rewarding option for some.

Adjustments of consciousness

Not doing anything at all appears to be one of our options, and it’s an option that most of us will appear to take until the day we are forced into action by the circumstances of our own lives. But this is an illusion. When we tune out, we aren’t really tuning out. We aren’t really turning off the radio when we do this, we’re just changing the station, and frequent station changes may actually be healthy and wise. Turning our attention toward art, communication, spirituality, and connection with others in any form can widen a shrinking perspective, ward off desperation and fear, and help us remember that there are thousands of ways to feel and many sides to every story. It’s never a bad idea to remember this. Turning away often just means looking at the same world from different angles.

Adjustments of environment

Here’s a common scenario: A person wants to lose weight, but every night he finds himself opening the fridge and eating cookies and cake. One day, he accepts that willpower and self-determination cannot solve this problem. These things have not worked, and they never will. So he throws away the cookies. Every night he stares into the fridge longing for cookies, but they aren’t there. So he can’t eat them, and he loses weight. Sometimes we change ourselves by changing the things around us. We move, shift jobs, adjust our friends, or alter the landscape we see when our eyes open each morning. We will adapt to whatever we place in front of ourselves; we just have to get past the first and hardest step.

Do you see your own course of action on this list? Do you see a course of action that you’d like to take, but you aren’t sure how? We’re here to help. Contact our team and join our mission. Together, we’re going to face whatever lies ahead. The only way out is forward.

 

The United Nations and Water Management

As the planet warms, scientific communities and governments around the world are working to identify and stay ahead of the major areas of concern that will result from this change first, second, and third.

For example, here at Just Atonement, we recognize that what begins as a global temperature increase will eventually result in shifting patterns of human movement and migration; as sea levels rise and natural resources expire in some areas and open up in others, human beings will move across the planet from one place to another in large numbers. These population shifts will lead to cultural collisions and mergers that may be impossible to accurately predict, but it’s our obligation to anticipate this upheaval all the same and make an effort to identify what these seismic shifts will require of us as a civilization.

Another widely-recognized—but still unpredictable—global flashpoint relates to water and water resource management. While much attention has been devoted to the issue of rising sea levels and flooding, massive droughts are an equally imminent aspect of rising temperatures and shifting ecosystems. India (home to about 1.3 billion people, or about one fifth of the global population) is now experiencing what the government identifies as the worst water crisis in its history. Read more here.

99.jpg

So our question for the moment is: How does the United Nations address issues related to water distribution? Water is essential to human life, and access to drinkable clean water is a fundamental human right, one that is often controlled and disrupted by policy, politics and class divisions around the world.

The United Nations has no single specific entity dedicated exclusively to water issues. Because water concerns run through almost every one of the organization’s major efforts to sustain peace and to protect human rights and the global rule of law, water and sanitation programs are distributed among about 30 programs under the UN’s aegis, and their shared efforts are coordinated by a group called UN Water and its partners, who work to facilitate communication between these diverse entities.

UN Water: 1.) monitors and reports on the water-related actions of these 30 groups 2.) provides data that informs policy decisions, and 3.) inspires action.

The members and partners of UN Water support each connected entity in combined efforts to build sustainability agendas, create disaster risk reduction frameworks, secure financing for development, and anticipate climate change.

To learn more about UN Water’s goals and accomplishments since the 1970’s, please check out their homepage here: http://www.unwater.org/about-unwater/

And for a simple breakdown of each of the key dimensions of global water and sanitation issues, please click here. http://www.unwater.org/water-facts/

Single-Use Plastics: a Global Crisis

On and around June 5th, The United Nations promotes a host of activities related to World Environment Day. This year, countries around the globe are hosting public service messages, ad campaigns, and massive community clean-ups—including a giant citizen-run cleanup operation organized to remove litter from the rivers and river banks behind the Taj Mahal.

Here’s a series of videos created in honor of a single day that we hope will keep the spirit of respect and preservation alive throughout the year.

This June, many of these large and small community efforts around the world have been focused on one of the most serious environmental threats facing the planet, a threat that each individual person can influence by changing their own habits and actions: single-use plastic pollution.

A growing number of municipalities and nations are considering legislative action that bans the manufacture of single-use plastics, but so far, not quite enough of these laws have been put into practice. In most of the world, it still falls to individuals to make responsible choices and turn away from plastic cups, bags, food containers, cutlery and straws in favor of reusable options.

93.jpg

Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, so every plastic object that is used and thrown away remains intact…somewhere. There are two possible destinations for a discarded straw or plastic bottle: on land or in the ocean.

Ocean pollution has become an international crisis that threatens marine ecosystems and spreads to every continent. The circulation of oxygen and maintenance of all life on the planet both begin with the oceans, and the spread of non-biodegradable ocean garbage is a tragedy with effects that have been underestimated for decades. The global community is beginning to take notice and act, though it remains to be seen if this action will be enough.

Plastics accumulating on land are creating an equally serious threat, as those who live near New Delhi landfills can testify.

As of this June, India is officially making plans to ban single use plastic by 2022 which will set an example for other developed nations drowning in their own garbage. In the meantime, please join our team as we follow the actions of UN member nations who celebrate the spirit of World Environment Day.