People Power: Going local with water

The Kentucky River by Halls at the River, photographer Leigh Gaitskill copyright 2019

Environmental impacts on water have been of interest to me since the late sixties, when big water issues near me on the Great Lakes were in the news.  In recent years I’ve been following with great concern the conversation about clean water becoming scarce around the world.  Then when crisis hit my home town of Flint, Michigan, alarm bells started sounding.

Since Flint, there are increasing numbers of cities with lead problems popping up and eerily little media attention to the issue.  I’m pretty aware of a number of cases because I do a lot of poking around in environmental issues, but you’d have to be really looking to realize how widespread the issue of lead in water due to old pipes is.

Among those who are more aware of the water problem, there’s often a call for federal action  It’s another place where I think local plans from communities coming together may provide more and better answers  Given the many problems besides old pipes that are coming to a head about even having sources of clean water, I don’t think a giant plan to put in new pipes is our best answer.

Looking at Flint

For Flint, there’s an immediate problem of organizing enough drinking water for the populace.  There are a couple of passionate folks I’ve encountered on Twitter who are raising money for bottled water — Lance Cooper @escapedmatrix and Mari Copeny @LittleMissFlint; check them out and donate if you can.  But I can see the problem requires a bigger solution and something more sustainable.

I’ve been looking at rainwater collection as an interim possibility.  First, the technology already exists for both collecting and purifying it and it’s widely available.  Second, it would help them keep an ongoing supply of water.  Third, if you could throw holding tanks into the deal and a give-away of good-sized re-usable jugs, with a number of centers (probably churches and/or community centers), people could collect decent amounts of water as needed.  Not a permanent solution as rain fall is too unreliable, but possibly helpful while a better answer is sought.

It’s a poor community and this would cost a lot more than a fundraiser can garner.  The City of Flint is broke (thanks so much General Motors for abandoning the town).  So I’ve been looking at the Charles Stuart Mott Foundation, which happens to be located in Flint.  In fact, Flint is one of the foundation’s missions and they also have an Environmental mission, so I can see a grant proposal that ties these two arenas together.

Not every state allows rain water collection so not an answer for some places, but Michigan doesn’t have a law in place that prevents it.  I’ll be exploring some other technologies and potential drawbacks below.

A second phase would involve something like water purification systems for homes in the area.  Possibly the right person or group could get a company that makes them to give a break or make a donation and a grant could cover the remaining cost and installation.  Below I also look at a few other up and coming technologies for supplying water without using current sources or pipes.  Mari has started a fundraiser to buy purifiers.

I don’t have connections in the area any more (and was too young to have this kind when I lived there), so don’t know community groups who could put in a grant proposal, and I am not an expert at writing a winning grant proposal, so I’m hoping there are people who DO know who can step up.

Foundation support will likely not be the answer as the problem grows more widespread, but Mott is not alone in offering grants for communities and/or for environmental projects so the towns with immediate issues could potentially use grants to help create local supplies of water.

For an excellent analysis of the issues for Flint and why the community should take charge: Flint Water Crisis: The Importance of Building a Grassroots Environmental Justice Infrastructure

Keep It Local

Throughout this series I’ve been advocating a shift to local forums for everything from jobs to manufacturing to governance.  While many who are looking at the growing water crisis and demanding federal action on large scale infrastructure, I’m not so sure the feds are our best hope nor that simply replicating the current water supply system is our best long-term answer.

Given the scale of climate change, I think the current water crisis is a perfect moment to think in terms of sustainable answers.  And the means and methods of sustainability are going to vary widely with locale given differences in climate, water sources, etc.  As I continue explore the growing co-op movement around the world, I’m thinking that local and, in the case of large cities, sometimes neighborhood, co-ops dealing with water may do a better job.  At the least, local governments are better situated to work on the specific needs and possibilities of their communities.

In Texas, for instance, after the big drought of 2011, a number of cities instituted serious changes in how they collect water and their chosen means were very much suited to the local climate and how water is available.  See Six Alternative Water Sources for Texas.  See also: Alternative Water Sources: Supply Side Solutions for Green Buildings for discussions of a number of solutions being used in cities scattered around the U.S.

 Community Groups

Poor neighborhoods are particularly under-served when it comes to safe water and in some areas strong community advocacy groups have been instrumental in getting things done.  If your town or area is having trouble about water and you don’t have such a group, I highly recommend that you look into some of the already-existing ones and create a group that suits your issues.

I’ve read a few things about a group in L.A. which advocates for south L.A., where Black and immigrant residents are disproportionately harmed by environmental issues.  Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education’s (SCOPE) work for social, economic and environmental justice is impressive.  Other groups to explore:  Detroit, West Harlem Environmental Action, Deep South Center for Environmental Justice partners with various communities around the South to promote environmental justice.

Sustainable Water Sources

There is so much info, I can’t provide an exhaustive list but there are a couple of promising avenues to discuss and then I have a lot of links to articles discussing various alternatives to draining all the rivers and lakes, etc.  One thing I’m finding I want to emphasize is potential environmental impacts if some of these things are done on a large scale.

A number of inventors have created devices using solar to create water by drawing water from the air.  Sounds great if you’re talking about one or a few.  But I can’t imagine there’s not an environmental impact down the road if you put thousands and thousands in place, sucking all the moisture out of the air.  So far I’m striking out at finding any environmental impact studies on them at all.

Rain water collection systems are not legal in every state.  Particularly in places with water supply problems, rain water run off is part of the water eco system and states have outlawed it, claiming the state owns that water.  Michigan at the moment has a big supply of water so has not outlawed it, but as water becomes more scarce everywhere I can see potential for multitudes of rain water collection systems also causing detrimental environmental impacts.  Right now they’re available but not that common and it seems like a good solution but I’d like to know if there’s a tipping point where collecting rain would become more of a hazard than a help.

There are also a variety of desalinization devices, including solar, many already in operation in places where it’s suitable.  Again I’ve not seen an environmental impact assessment regarding widespread drawing on salt water sources and taking out the salt.  Seems like another spot with an eventual tipping point from help to harm.

There are other innovations coming along all the time for creating potable water so it’s worth snooping around on the web every now and then to see what’s new.

More info

The latest issue of the alumnae magazine from my Alma mater, Northwestern University, had a really good article about water and efforts being made by various professors in various departments to find solutions.  Solutions for Troubled Waters.

The whole article is worth reading but I particularly noted a couple of resources.  Chemistry professor Will Dichtel has a company offering some of the solutions, from home purifiers to waste management and more, CycloPure.

The director of the Environmental Advocacy Center of the law school’s legal clinic was highlighted and I was interested to note that the Advocacy Center offers help to communities in many places, not just Chicago, so a good potential resource in the U.S.- and apparently they’re working on becoming international.  Their solutions are not just legal, but include help in solving problems, sometimes in conjunction with other NU departments, so a good resource to know about.

The EPA also has a grants program that offers up to $30,000 to community organizations working on environmental justice issues.  Seems like a great place for people in a town like Flint or Newark to propose a program to help with the water crisis.  Environmental Justice Small Grants Program

And some miscellaneous articles on water issues:

The People Power posts:

 

People Power and Women

 

 

Finally my series on women’s issues and my people power posts converge as I reach the point of advocating an overthrow.  Time for women to use their power to take charge.  Not just beg for an equal place in the patriarchy.  Overcome the patriarchy.

The last post I wrote in the Women series explored the exploitation of women in the sports world, with a long look at the Larry Nasser disaster at MSU and in U.S. Gymnastics.  The more I examined the shocking degree of sexual abuse happening across the country from early school through college and on into professional sports, the more dismayed I became at the lack of real protest.

When I talked to various women about the enormity of the problem, they were all distressed but also shrugged and assured me nothing would happen “because it’s sports…”  The  attitude from other feminists shocked me even more than realizing we have an epidemic of sexual abuse against women in the sports world (and of course beyond).

It was the first moment I began to understand how deeply immersed in the patriarchy we are.  Men can molest and abuse women starting in middle school and it’s not only covered up but only the parents of those molested protest.  Surprisingly the Moms are not sufficiently outraged by the treatment of girls to withdraw their children from sports activities.

At MSU women students did not immediately transfer in protest.  Parents did not take their daughters out of the school or refuse to allow girls to apply.  Other than some editorial letters and outraged phone calls I could find no sign of any large scale protest at MSU demanding policy changes and assurances of protection for the women who attend the school.

No parents organized a boycott of all MSU sports until action is taken.  Nothing.  Not even the parents of girls think girls count enough compared to male sports figures to stand up for them.  I could find not a single news story in the entire country about parents organizing any kind of major protest or boycott at any level at any school where widespread sexual abuse had been reported.

I haven’t stopped reeling at the comprehension of how very little value we women have in this society, even among women.

In the meantime, I watched the #metoo movement catch on and listened skeptically as various women talked about how we’d never go back now.  Been there, seen that in the ’70’s.  We thought the tide had forever turned.  Until we realized it turned back the other way.  By a year or so after the wave of “Me Too’s” peaked I started hearing about Wall Street firms stopping the hiring of women in order to avoid harassment claims.  T.V. sets where women complained of harassment and producers failed to even report the claims.

Oh boy are we deep in the patriarchy.

Then I read an amazing article, Men are 100% Responsible for Unwanted Pregnancies.  Step by step the author goes through an eye opening litany of the ways in which men are responsible.  Starting with the fact that women are only fertile about 24 days a year compared to a man’s 365 day fertility.  In wanted pregnancies, there is an agreement and both are participating in a decision.  In unwanted pregnancies there is at least a failure to prevent and at worst a cavalier irresponsibility on the part of the man who is inevitably part of the equation. Moving on to the horrible side effects of birth control pills compared to the relative ease of using condoms or getting a (reversible) vasectomy.  Well, please read the article in full.

Again I was left reeling at the depths of the patriarchy.

Even the Women’s Movement has failed us here in my opinion.  The strident insistence on protesting and taking stands about abortion is in itself a patriarchal position.  By fighting about abortion and women’s right to choose after they’re already pregnant, we completely sidestep around the real issue and behave as if women get pregnant by themselves.

If men were held responsible for their “boys will be boys” mentality and held to account for failure to take all precautions to avoid causing a pregnancy, abortion would not even be an issue.  Give men jail time and big fines for causing unwanted pregnancies and there wouldn’t be any.  End of abortion problem.  Should suit both the pro- and anti-abortion factions.  Yet no one even raises the possibility.

Because the patriarchy has such an insidious hold even feminists don’t really see it.

When I look at the years since we first took off our bras and marched around for women’s rights in the 70’s, I see:

  • no Equal Rights Amendment
  • women making less pay than men across the board
  • women being assaulted and raped while men for the most part go unpunished
  • men who truly do not understand why they should be punished
  • women coping with issues of pregnancy as if men have nothing to do with it
  • men getting away with abuse, inhumanity and heartlessness while exercising control over everything to see it doesn’t change

The more I look, the more I’m ready to take a radical leap.  It’s time for women to stop begging for a few more places at the table of patriarchy.  It’s time for us to quit hoping to be taken seriously enough to get paid the same.  It’s time for us to quit letting boys and men off the hook for sexual violence against women.

We need the feminine.  We need humanity and compassion.  When women rule, education, care, kindness ensue.  Men aren’t going to give it to us.  Men will fight for us not to have it.  It’s time to take over.

Yup, it’s time for women to revolt.  It’s time to quit messing around about equality in their world and in terms of what they’re wiling to “let” us have and be.  It’s time for women to take charge.  Question is, how many women are ready?  #WomenRevolt #BurnthePatriarchy #WomensRevolution

The Women posts:

People Power posts:

 

@Alyssa_Milano @marwilliamson @ewarren @GloriaSteinem @TaranaBurke @angelajdavis @scotusginsburg @Oprah @TheGirlMalala @MichelleObama @jameelajamil @justinbaldoni @MargaretAtwood @EmmaWatson @rgay @EverydaySexism

People Power: politics and changing the cultural base line

The deeper I move into this People Power series the more I realize how much we need a shift in our basic thinking on multi-levels and in multi-arenas.  Watching Marianne Williamson’s much-needed voice shaking up the political arena is fueling my sense of “time for change” even more. It’s time for us to take power back from global corporations and unscrupulous politicians and she’s calling out the need for these changes.

Her candidacy has left me doing a lot of deep ruminating.  Starting with the fact I’ve never particularly liked her.  And note I’m NOT saying I DIS-like her.  My instincts for which teacher or which book is for me are spot on and I just never felt drawn to her… for ME.  And I admit I’ve always pick up a frisson of something in her demeanor or energy that leaves me uneasy.

So I’m not an enthusiastic supporter of her as president.  But I’m an enthusiastic supporter of her important voice staying in the race long enough to start moving the conversation in the direction it needs to go. As far as her ultimately being the candidate, still mulling.

There’ve been a few really good articles about the importance of the conversation she keeps inserting into the political arena.  In this article in Harper’s Bazaar by Kerry Pieri, the writer asserts, “Williamson is trying to teach us that our mind-set needs a new baseline, one of true empathy…” And she argues this is so important in these times that people need to stop calling her crazy for trying to talk about love and peace.

And Erica Ariel Fox, in a Forbes article discusses how much we need to re-insert soul and spirit into our politics, telling Democrats they should learn from her.

The switch to moving from fear and war as our base of operations to love and peace is key and crucial but not the only one we need to make.  From our unconscious consuming habits to our reliance on federal government instead of moving to local power to our blindness to the power of corporations over our lives and our world, we need radical change in our base line of thinking.

And I”m thankful Marianne Williamson is standing up there, bravely facing ridicule, and loudly advocating positions we are not used to hearing from politicians.  These conversations need to become part of the cultural base line and consciousness in order for we the people to assert our power.

@MarianneWilliamson @2020Marianne

The People Power Series:

 

Separating Church & State Honors Our Ancestors

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

U.S. Constitution, First Amendment, Establishment and Free Exercise clauses

For some time I’ve been observing a growing trend among some Christians (mostly evangelical) to want to end the separation of church and state mandated by the Constitution and make every one conform to Christian values and participate in Christian practices.  They say they love America but their stance is so adverse to the foundation stones of our nation, it’s hard to imagine they even know our history.

I’ve been particularly thinking about it in light of my genealogy research and the many ancestors who came here to get away from religious persecution.  My 10x great grandfather, William Brewster, was a Puritan Separatist and his religious views first forced him to flee England for Holland.  He later managed to return to England long enough to board the Mayflower and come to the Plymouth Colony.

He was one of multitudes of Puritans who fled England because their religious beliefs were outlawed.  They braved the hazardous voyage across the ocean and came to the new world in the hope of finding freedom to worship as they chose.

On my mother’s side I’ve long since lost count of the number of Scottish Presbyterians — they’re all over the tree on both sides of her family.  Some broke off from the Presbyterian Church in Scotland and came here to establish their version of Presbyterianism.  Others, after accepting land in Ireland for some years, wound up fleeing to America when England began persecuting Presbyterians for their failure to follow Anglican law.

Presbyterians weren’t particularly welcome here either as the established religions along the coast disapproved of their beliefs.  They gave the Scots land at what were then the frontiers, in order to let them serve as buffers against the Native tribes.  In other words they were expendable.  Presbyterian ministers were rare in those parts, so many became Baptists.

These are just some of the stories of religious persecution that led many of our early citizens to the Colonies.  The Founding Fathers were well aware of the persecution that had hounded so many out of their homes and across an ocean.  There is also a great deal of evidence many of them were aware of other religions, such as Hinduism, Islam, etc.  So when they established free exercise of religion and forbade the establishment of a state religion, they were specifically safeguarding people from the kind of persecution so many had endured and, by their explicit failure to name Christianity or any denomination thereof, they extended that freedom to all religions.

Ironically many of those who are trying to force everyone to conform to their religious beliefs, to bring Christian prayers back into schools and make Muslim and Jewish and Hindu children participate, are descendants of the persecuted Christians who arrived in a new land seeking freedom to worship as they chose.

Every time I see one of these calls for the State to violate the First Amendment and participate in promoting evangelical Christian beliefs, I feel my ancestors have been dishonored.  That their suffering has been forgotten.  “Separation of church and state” were Jefferson’s words, describing the meaning of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses, a separation created to make sure such persecution would not be repeated.

This wall between state and church was built to ensure all people freedom to pursue their religious beliefs without interference from the government.  Every call to take down that wall is an assault on one of the great foundation stones of the United States of America and shows either ignorance of or contempt for one of the most important lynch pins of our democracy; one which is central to its greatness.

Let’s not forget why so many of the original settlers came here.  Honor their pursuit of religious freedom by honoring religious freedom.