Facebook Slider
Optional Member Code
Get News Alerts!

BURT HALL FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

Broken 0828wrp opt(Photo: Rachel Knickmeyer / Flickr)The American people are deeply frustrated with not being fairly represented in Congress and with not having a voice in our democracy. They are demanding an end to our great political divide and a return to a working democracy. For years politicians have been well aware of these concerns and the need for the two parties to be civil and work together. And, they know that trust in government has been at an all time low. But the problem persists unabated.

Republicans now control all three branches of government, yet they haven't had an acceptable administration in years. They allowed a preventable 9/11 and two wars to occur, failed two terms in office, and constantly checkmated the other party's success while offering no solutions of their own. There is something fundamentally wrong in our democratic system and it has to be addressed.

Our great political divide began in a big way when, after owning the White House for 12 years, Republicans lost it unexpectedly to the Clinton presidency. They were outraged at the loss, considered his victory illegitimate and believed he had to be driven from office. The political environment that followed has continued to the present day and is best expressed byRepublican George Voinovich. After saving Cleveland from default as mayor and making Ohio number one as governor, he worked across the aisle during two terms in the Senate (winning all 88 Ohio counties) and always had the ear of the president. He confessed at Senate retirement that the attitude of his colleagues was "We're going to get what we want or the country can go to hell."

Published in Guest Commentary

STEFANIE SPEAR FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

In the last month, scientists have noted a series of alarming events, all of which indicate the significant effects climate change is having on the planet.

Yesterday, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) announced that the Arctic sea ice cover was at its lowest level since the satellite record began in 1979. Earlier this month Australian scientists found concrete evidence of “very unusual warming” over the last hundred years in Antarctica. And in July, 97 percent of Greenland’s ice sheet melted, an event that received little coverage in the American news media.

Published in Guest Commentary

GREEN IS GOOD
by Meg White

Walking into the production facility in a small warehouse on the north side of Chicago, cold words like "factory" and "mill" are the last things that come to mind. What would you call this place? I wonder. A studio? A workshop?
As the perfect flood of pear, citrus and lavender hits my senses, so does the appropriateness of the name. Yes, this is truly an enterprising kitchen.

The Enterprising Kitchen, or TEK as its participants call it, is a workforce development social enterprise serving Chicago women with barriers to employment. They specialize in the arts of both turning around the lives of women and soapmaking. Participants are referred to the six-month program by caseworkers from social service agencies all over Chicago.

"We get referrals from a lot of different agencies," TEK Executive Director Carolyn Nopar told me in a recent interview in her small office. "We don't aspire to be the first social service agency, but we do want to be the last."

Women accepted to the program learn all aspects of the small business, from production to shipping to sales to running the front office. They also have access to problem solving tools such as GED classes and financial counseling. Going beyond the ubiquitous resume writing session, TEK helps women set themselves up for self-sufficiency in the modern work world, with elevator speeches and LinkedIn profiles. Working at TEK is something of a last step on a long, hard road; a step you don't realize you took on your own until you look back at it from another place.

Published in Green Is Good

GREEN IS GOOD
by Meg White

Economic indicators may be up, but the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago is not one of those places where you can see the recession receding.

"You know, we have a crack house right here," said Brenda Palms Barber, pointing to a house with a brown door across the alley. "People go back in there and get high all the time. It's crazy what I see in this alley."

Barber, the founder of the social enterprise Sweet Beginnings, is giving me a sort of tour through the single window of her small office.

"This gas station is the highest crime area in North Lawndale, one of the highest, because of the drug traffic that goes on on the highway," she continues. Her finger moves to the barrier between Sweet Beginnings' back yard and the gas station. "You see the different colors of fences? That's how many times it's been knocked down, driven through, rammed through..."

You wouldn't guess that such a troubled area is also home to a 28-beehive apiary. The honeybees don't seem to mind the crime or the drone of highway 290. Then again, they draw their inspiration from what grows in North Lawndale, as opposed to what is merely waiting to be torn down.

Published in Green Is Good

GREEN IS GOOD
by Meg White

Over the past couple of decades, Americans have finally begun to seek out good coffee. As Folgers receded, Starbucks transcended. Yet while our coffee was once notoriously bad-tasting, today an American cuppa Joe has gotten a second bad reputation: It leaves a bad taste in the mouth of those who care about social justice and the environment.

Most coffee on the market today is unsustainable in that it is grown in stripped, pesticide-soaked rainforest and picked by often mistreated workers in exchange for slave wages. The thing is, some beans produced this way can still say "fair trade" on the label.

Knowing that those who care about such things happen to make up the bulk of our readership, BuzzFlash decided explore what we drink in the morning. Sure, it tastes good. It even sounds good. But does it do good?

While coffee wasn't the first item we sold in the BuzzFlash Progressive Marketplace, it was a natural jump from progressive books touting fair trade, environmentally-friendly principles to a beverage that is actually made with said principles in production.

Nowadays, BuzzFlash sells coffee from a number of different fair trade-certified producers. I spoke with representatives of two of them -- Just Coffee out of Madison, WI and Equal Exchange from Massachusetts -- to get a better idea of fair trade behind all the fancy stamps and stickers on bean bags these days.

They're both quite different companies, but they each have ties to some pretty radical roots.

Published in Green Is Good

GREEN IS GOOD
by Meg White

For a whole generation of Americans, recycling was the first thing we were taught as children to do for the environment. Whether you learned about it from the Three Rs or Captain Planet, the idea of repurposing used material has been a part of our environmental consciousness for many years.

Apparently, the largest coffee retailer on the planet is too cool for school. At this year's annual meeting, only 11 percent of Starbucks shareholders voted to initiate a comprehensive recycling plan. For a company that asserts it shares "our customers' commitment to the environment," the negligence in one of the simplest areas of environmental stewardship came as a shock to all who imagine Starbucks to be as green as their logo.

Published in Green Is Good

GREEN IS GOOD
by Meg White

It's snowing, but my stomach doesn't know it. It's not even March yet and all I can think of is fresh, locally-grown tomatoes. I've ordered my vegetable garden seeds, bought my peat pots and lugged home a stack of gardening books from the library. Last night, I had a pretty vivid dream about my compost bin.

Clearly, I need help. Or spring; whichever comes first.

Thankfully, I'm not alone. With the popularity of Michael Pollan's works, Food Inc., and numerous other exposés on the terrible toll of factory farming, there is a growing movement to vote with one's fork. But with locavores, proponents of organic certification and sustainable agriculture supporters all insisting it is their practice which is most critical in breaking the unhealthy cycle of factory farming, there is a great deal of confusion out there.

And the problem remains of what those of us who don't live in California should do with the frozen tundra under our feet. This time of year, the indoor farmers markets (if you're lucky enough to have access to any) contain slim, expensive pickins. The boxes offered by the few year-round CSAs (community-supported agriculture collectives) are well-stocked with winter squash and root vegetables, but little else. How do we northerners stay true to food virtues without getting scurvy?

Irv and Shelly to the rescue!

Published in Green Is Good

GREEN IS GOOD
by Margaret Smith

New York's most notable feature may be the city that never sleeps, but a new trend that's been sweeping the nation over the past couple of years has finally made ground. And when we say "made ground" we're talking literally here, because it plans on drilling its way thousands of feet underground in New York state.

Yes, New York has become the new epicenter for the hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," debate. A popular technique used by natural gas and oil companies, fracking is a way to easily extract natural gas from rock fissures. A chemical mixture of sand and fluid is injected under high pressure deep within rock formations to break open pores and easily release natural gas. From there, the natural gas is directed toward a production well where it can then be brought to the surface.

For New York, plans have been set aside to drill out of the Marcellus Shale. Part of the Devonian Black Shale Succession, the Marcellus Shale is a 575-mile long shale formation that extends through Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and West Virginia. A profitable move? Definitely. Natural gas as energy has been commonly used in New York for over two centuries. Recently it found that the Marcellus formation contained a mind-blowing amount of natural gas, and now New York stands to make more than a trillion dollars from its production.

But at what cost? That's what many New Yorkers have been asking themselves lately as plans to drill keep moving forward and problems such as wastewater treatment, local impact, and mining remain to be solved.

Published in Green Is Good

GREEN IS GOOD
by Margaret SmithJaguars

The UN recently declared 2010 the Year of Biodiversity, and it looks like the United States just made the first step to promote that cause. After more than a decade of resistance, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Tuesday that it will finally start protecting the habitats of jaguars in the U.S.

Jaguars have been listed as an endangered species since 1997. For various reasons, however, the government never designated a habitat for them or developed a formal recovery plan, as is part of the normal protocol for most endangered species.

Published in Green Is Good

Are Polar Bears, Tigers and the Beluga Whale Headed for Extinction as We Enter a New Decade?

GREEN IS GOODTiger
by Margaret Smith

Another year, another resolution. Some of us vowed to be nicer, others want to spend less money and many just went with the old standby of losing weight. The United Nations may have topped us all, though, when they declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. And as thrilling as the 2009 International Year of Natural Fibers was -- following the all-important International Year of the Potato in 2008 -- this one may be worth watching out for.

The purpose is simple: to raise public awareness on the importance of biodiversity and the consequences of its loss to human well-being. The International Year's official launch will take place next Monday, Jan. 11, in Berlin, followed by a meeting at the Paris headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization later that month, the first high-profile event of the International Year. It couldn't have come at a better time, though, and not only because some experts say the world's plant and animal species are disappearing at 1,000 times the rate of natural progression.

Published in Green Is Good
Page 1 of 5