War and Peace

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!

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.

December 2018: A Brief Review of Global Developments

This week, there are so many developments of special interest to Just Atonement taking place around the world that it’s difficult for us to keep up. So we’ve distilled just a few of these events and noteworthy items and summarized them here.

UN COP24 Takeaways

Monday December 3rd marks the opening of the UN COP24 Climate Change conference, in which UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez will address a large audience of world leaders gathered to discuss strategies climate action. His early message can be broken down into four key points. First, Gutierrez delivered a call for greater ambition in the generation of renewable energy. “If we fail (to reduce emissions by 45 percent before 2030) the Arctic and Antarctic will continue to melt, corals will bleach and then die, the oceans will rise, more people will die from air pollution, water scarcity will plague a significant proportion of humanity, and the cost of disasters will skyrocket.”

Second, Gutierrez emphasized the importance of creating implementation guidelines in order to build trust among nations. More will be encouraged to act if others are also taking action. For item three, he stressed that adequate funding must be procured for climate action, and four, he emphasized that social and economic action on climate change result in benefits, not burdens. It remains to be seen how this message will be received by world leaders. Here’s a longer summary of the discussion.

Conditions in Yemen

What has previously been documented as the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world” is now also considered the largest food security crisis in the world, according to UN officials. Populations cut off from resources by conflict in and around Yemen’s port city of Hudaydah are facing deadly threats of hunger and malnutrition.  The Under-Secretary- General of the UN, Mark Lowcock, examined the situation and has reported and reiterated that only a political solution can end the crisis. Please read more here.

Oil Drilling in the Arctic

While some national governments are working hard to develop renewable energy and slow reliance on fossil fuels, the Trump administration is doing the opposite, specifically regarding the prospect of drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and a neighboring area in Alaska known as the National Petroleum Reserve. In both areas, Republicans in congress are working with corporate interests in the state of Alaska to rush through environmental assessment studies, roll back protective regulations, and issue drilling permits as fast as possible, hoping to unlock increased oil production along the Alaskan Coast. Learn more about the destructive race for Alaskan oil that appears to be undergoing a rapid acceleration by clicking here.

For more information on important current developments in the areas that affect our work the most, contact the team at Just Atonement. As always, we’re working every day to protect a just, safe, and democratic future for all people despite the unique challenges of our century.



Migrant Caravans and Climate Change

Here in the Just Atonement blog, we’ve spoken at length about the effects of climate change on human migration. As the planet warms, ecosystems are shifting unpredictably and sea levels are rising. As a result, coastal communities are facing enormous economic and lifestyle changes, and those who live further inland are dealing with droughts, storm systems, and water management issues. But there’s one population that will—and has already—felt the first serious impact of changing ecosystems: farmers.

Here’s an insightful article from the Guardian that addresses one example of this: the “migrant caravan” that appears to be moving north from central and south America this fall.

Those who make a living by growing food and other commercial goods appear to be providing early indicators of the changes that are yet to come for the rest of us. As farm landscapes and water resources shift, these people are among the first to feel the lifestyle and economic effects. And in many cases, these lifestyle changes are already pushing farmers, families and communities onto the road and into new geographic regions. As we’ve discussed in earlier blogs, this will mean massive numbers of people leaving one culture and entering another, with political and social impacts that are so far difficult to measure and predict.

How will the new arrivals be treated in their destination areas? Will they find assimilation and acceptance? Will they be easily able to move across political and cultural borders? When the do cross these borders, how will they reestablish themselves in their new lands, and how will they make a living?

Over the long term, the question we’ll all need to face is simple (though the factors that influence the answer are terribly complex): Can we navigate waves of human migration crisscrossing the surface of the planet while avoiding wars and political upheaval? Can we manage these changes without attacking each other? When migration takes place, it tends to bring fear, confusion, language and cultural barriers, and skirmishes over what are perceived as limited resources. Who has the right to these resources? Who belongs and who does not?

But migration also brings some incredible and positive tendencies, results that are not only essential to our ability to survive and thrive, but in fact have given us most of the things we celebrate about humanity: innovation, new ideas, connection, friendship and family, and the ability to grow and change as the world changes around us. As the planet shifts, will inevitable massive migrations bring out the best or the worst in all of us? We are witnessing the answer as we speak.  

Contact our team at Just Atonement to learn more. Find out how you can help us move toward our goal of a safer, wiser, more vibrant and sustainable world.  


UN Marks International Safe Abortion Day

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United Nations Human Rights experts issued a formal statement on Friday, September 28, in honor of International Safe Abortion Day. The UN Human Rights Council Working Group fights discrimination against women in both law and in practice, and the group opened its statement by acknowledging the central link between a women’s access to reproductive agency and her access to justice, equality, financial security and all aspects of public life.

A woman’s ability to make her own reproductive decisions lies “at the very core of [her] fundamental right to equality, privacy and physical and mental integrity and is a precondition for the enjoyment of other rights and freedoms”.

And yet, 47,000 women die each year due to unsafe abortions. An additional five million suffer temporary or permanent disability. And an estimated 225 million women worldwide don’t have access to basic modern contraception, with girls under fifteen experiencing five times the risk of limited access and resulting unplanned pregnancy. If 225 million women could gain this access and prevent unwanted pregnancy, human health and human rights around the globe would experience a sharp increase.  

As stated by the group, “legal frameworks for abortion have been typically been designed to control women’s decision making through the use of criminal law.”

The World Health organization has demonstrated that criminalizing abortion does not prevent the procedure; instead, it pushes women to resort to unsafe and unregulated medical provision. In addition, in many cultures, women who have received abortions are mistreated by health professionals, denied emergency care, or are otherwise subject to forms of societal punishment that in many cases violate national and international law.

It is essential that governments reclaim this essential cornerstone of women’s reproductive rights through referendum, legislative and judicial action.

It’s also essential that concerns about unsafe abortion be addressed through public health policies and changes to relevant civil law including medical malpractice laws.   

Discrimination against women is a thread that winds through public and private life in times of both peace and war. It transcends national and cultural boundaries and is often fueled by power imbalances between women and men that are formally mirrored in laws, policy, and cultural practice. Many of these laws and practices are long-standing and deeply entrenched. But these laws can be removed with the systematic application of legal pressure and education; these are among the primary goals of the Working Group by the Human Rights Council. To learn more about the Working Group, click here. The next session of will take place in Geneva from October 22-26.