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Archive for the ‘Environmental Justice’ Category

We’ve got to hand it to the moms. For years, “green” mommas (including celeb Jessica Alba!) have been sharing tips on how to find and buy the safest, cleanest, greenest products for your family. Moms have been some of the biggest proponents of baby bottles and sippy cups that are free from the nasty endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA)—and just a few weeks ago the Food and Drug Administration followed their lead and banned BPA in bottles and kids cups. While this is great news for some, for millions of women of color and low-income families, exposure to toxic chemicals is much bigger than a little plastic here or there.  It’s an issue of worker rights, economic opportunity, and environmental and reproductive justice. (more…)

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Veronica and Stephanie holding signs that say "Libertad, Familia: Defiende los derechos de las mujeres inmigrantes"

Stephanie and Veronica at the March for Immigrants' Rights on March 21, 2010

Yesterday, the Arizona House passed an omni-bus anti-choice law that included a ban on abortion past 20 weeks. These 20 week bans are all the rage now  in anti-choice legislating, and proposals for 20 week bans have been popping up all over the country in the last few years. The fact that this  most recent ban passed in Arizona, however, hit a nerve.

As you probably know, Arizona has one of the harshest anti-immigrant laws in the nation. And laws that criminalize immigrants and create harsh enforcement procedures do damage on a lot of fronts: they split families, they cost a lot of money. But anti-immigrant sentiment also has an effect on health. It is laws like these and the sentiment behind them that put up barriers to health care access for immigrants. Many immigrants, even some with legal documentation, cannot access public health care programs like Medicaid even if otherwise eligible; others who have found places where they could access health care that is affordable avoid going for fear that accessing this care will alert immigration authorities, or because the authorities have set up shop and are waiting outside the clinic (a practice our activists have witnessed and told us about). And abortion is health care.

You see, there are many barriers to obtaining safe, legal abortion services, and access to health care is a huge issue for immigrant women. Barriers to health care add time: time to gather up the money for the procedure, time to travel to a location where there is a provider, waiting periods, ultrasound appointments…it all adds up. For immigrant women in states like Arizona, who face many barriers in obtaining health care and abortion services, it takes time to get all the ducks in a row to get the services they need, and this ban will impact them the hardest. An abortion is not cheap, and it only gets more expensive as the weeks keep moving along; a woman may have gathered what she thinks is enough money for a procedure only to find that the price has gone up, meaning she will need more time – during which the procedure just gets more expensive.

It’s important to look at all of these systems together, for they paint a picture of who will be most affected. As usual, it is low-income women and immigrant women.

 

 

 

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By Rosario Quiroz, Community Mobilization Intern

The anti-immigrant movement has been known to use a wide diversity of tactics when pushing their anti-immigrant agenda. Often, those broad tactics highlight the connections between our movement and allied movements. A recent example of this has been the connections made by the anti-immigrant movement between immigration and its supposed impact on the environment.

They argue that immigrants have a negative impact on society because their carbon footprint increases by a factor of five when they move to the United States. The idea is that if people stay in their country of origin, they will have less of an impact on the environment. This is one of John Tanton’s guiding principles. John Tanton is one of the men behind the strong anti-immigrant network that has repeatedly contributed to blocking progressive bills on immigration.

What is this principle really saying though? It seems to suggest that certain people deserve less and should be kept from aspiring to live a life of dignity with job, health, and educational security. It seems to suggest that certain people, namely those born in the United States with white skin, are the ones who are entitled to the world’s resources. I say this because of the historic discrimination that not just immigrants, but other ethnic and racial groups have felt at the hands of the United States government. Latinas, Black women, and Native American women for example, are constantly policed by the state in their reproductive and parenting choices.

Focusing on the changing environmental impact of a migrant, rather than the disproportionate impact of wealthy countries like the US, is a losing attempt to shift the blame, once again, onto the backs of migrants. We’ve seen this before in the realm of the environment, where fears of overpopulation are directed at women of color internationally, despite over-consumption and larger environmental impacts in Western countries.

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By Stephanie Rodriguez, Policy Intern

What is activism in the Age of Obama? I was recently asked that question, and it recalled for me one of the messages that the President left us with after the election. He told us that change is now in our hands. He called us to action, he told us that as activists we have to continue doing our part.

During these first years of the Obama administration many of our expectations have fallen short. The recent failure of the DREAM Act is one of those disappointments. We need to reinvigorate our activist spirits within ourselves and move forward the agenda that we seek. From the One Nation team:

We face serious challenges, including: a deepening jobs crisis caused in part by a bubble economy of low wages and exploitative credit. We continue to struggle with a broken immigration system; crumbling infrastructure; too many failing public schools that help some, but not all, children; increased levels of division and discrimination; economic and energy peril; and environmental catastrophe. And, in this time of crisis, too many voices offer only a choice between doing nothing, and turning against one another.

Nevertheless, it is up to us to continue the struggle and mobilization necessary to enact the changes that we yearn for. How can you be part of this movement you might be asking yourself? Well, One Nation is offering you a concrete way..

On Saturday, October 2, 2010, they are organizing a march. One Nation Working Together is a national coalition of over 300 progressive organizations headed by the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, and the AFL-CIO. They are bringing thousands of people out to demand the change that we voted for in 2008. National Latina Institute will also be present at the march in coalition with NCIWR, advocating for justice and distributing information about our efforts.

One Nation believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. So on the 2nd, we march for secure jobs and a safe work environment, a living wage, immigration reform, access to affordable health care, quality education and an environmentally just world built and sustained by renewable energy.

I highly encourage all the change makers at heart to attend, and have your voices heard. Join up and learn more here.

By Stephanie Rodriguez, Policy Intern

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By Rita Martinez, Development and Communications Intern

I recently read a blog post at RH Reality Check about the reproductive health threats that toxic chemicals pose for women’s health.

Spurred by the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill controversy, this post strikes an interesting point. This disaster is not the first time that communities in the Gulf have had their environment threatened by corporate practices.

Kimberly Inez McGuire recaps the environmental injustices that have plagued the Gulf region for quite some time:

For decades, industrial waste and contamination in the Gulf states have been recognized for their role in causing health problems ranging from cancer to asthma. Residents have tested positive for exposure to some of the worst reproductive toxicants—chemicals that have been linked to infertility, miscarriage, low birth weight, low sperm count, and developmental and respiratory disorders for children exposed in utero.

This is a tragic reality for long-time residents, many of whom are primarily African American and Latino. Clearly, this is a case of environmental racism, whereby the environment of low-income and/or communities of color are disproportionally targeted for the location of polluting industries that expose them to much higher levels of toxic chemicals over their more affluent (and often White) counterparts.

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Most often when people think of environmental issues they are not thinking of the effects global warming will have on women specifically. In fact, women’s issues are usually viewed as a completely different entity. Fortunately there are organizations focusing on making these connections.  Women’s Environment & Development Organization or the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women have begun to look at climate change from a gender perspective.

Statistically, women are less likely to have access to healthcare, less likely to take part in political decision making about environmental issues and are more likely to be living in poverty. In areas with little or no access to health care maternal and infant mortality rates are much higher. When you begin to add environmental justice issues to the mix, healthy pregnancies become even more difficult and less likely. According to WEDO’s Gender and Climate Change 101,

Children and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to vector and waterborne diseases [their vulnerability often increasing in times of crisis, while] Anemia – resulting from malaria – is responsible for a quarter of maternal mortality.

Global warming is contributing to crisis such as drought, flooding and limited access to safe drinking water, all of these have a more severe affect on people of poor communities that may depend on natural resources. Communities of color also tend to be more negatively impacted by the issues caused by climate change. Organizations like the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative:

With rising temperatures, human lives—particularly in people of color, low-income, and Indigenous communities—are affected by compromised health, financial burdens, and social and cultural disruptions. These communities are the first to experience the negative impacts of climate change such as heat-related illness and death, respiratory illness, infectious diseases, unaffordable rises in energy costs, and extreme natural disasters. Not only do they bear disproportionate burdens from climate change itself, but also from ill-designed policies to prevent climate change and the side effects of the energy systems that cause it as well. Moreover, those who are most affected are least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that cause the problem—both globally and within the United States.

As a Latina reproductive justice organization, these connections are very important to NLIRH. Bringing a race and gender lens to the environmental justice work is critical and I am glad to see organizations making these connections.

By Jennifer Leigh Velez, Policy Intern

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A Los Angeles Times article last month brought attention to the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent efforts to expose the environmental injustice that exist in low-income communities. The agency’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council held a meeting in late July to create national guidelines and ways of implementing these changes in areas that are at risk. It wasn’t too long ago, during the Clinton-era, when environmental injustice was receiving national media attention after Clinton implemented the Executive Order 12898, Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations.

The Executive Order stated that it would:

  1. Promote enforcement of all health and environmental statutes in areas with minority populations and low-income populations
  2. Ensure greater public participation
  3. Improve research and data collection relating to the health of and environment of minority populations and low-income populations
  4. Identify differential patterns of consumption of natural resources among minority populations and low-income populations.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, Environmental Justice is:

The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Fair treatment means that no group of people should bear a disproportionate risk…that people have the opportunity to participate in decisions and activities that may affect their environment and/or health…the decision makers seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected.

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