About that viral climate strike hoax photo…

Illustration by Sarah DeMercurio

A viral hoax photo of the climate strike aftermath has been circulating like wildfire. The photo claims to show a park in Australia riddled with garbage and accusing the climate strikers of the mess. It didn’t take long for this photo to be debunked. Within a few hours of it’s first share, the Guardian released an article calling out the false image. This image was actually taken after a 420 festival in Hyde Park London, UK back in April.

The real photo and explanation back in April of 2019.

I found out about the photo the Sunday following the climate strike when a woman posted it in a group dedicated to cleaning up Macomb County Michigan. “They claim to care about the environment,” she angrily wrote in her post. I immediately took to the, more times than not, helpful internet only to find the Guardian article almost immediately. Before I could call her out for passing along a fake image, several other members of the group had done just that, but not before the original post shared by a man named Joe Storkson — who may or may not have plans to run for office — was shared close to 200,000 times. By the end of the day, it had been shared close to 300,000 times and I predict it will hit 1 million in no time unless Facebook takes it down.

What if that photo was accurate after all? I’m sure when you have over 3 million people gathering around the world, you will most likely encounter a certain amount of litter. After all, it is an unfortunate characteristic of humans. Is that enough to discredit the entire climate movement? I would argue it is not.

Is the act of littering ever acceptable? Absolutely not. It drives me crazy and infuriates me when I’m on a walk or a run and pass a bunch of garbage on the side of the road. I once saw a man toss his coffee cup out the window of his car and wanted to speed up and tell him what a garbage human he was for doing that. Why would you ever feel so entitled to throw your trash on the ground at this point in our history? Who failed you in life to think that was an acceptable act? But it happens and will continue to happen because we have been living in a wasteful and very self-centered society.

While I would never condone the act of littering under any circumstance, even if you accidentally drop something, to call an entire movement hypocritical because of the actions of a few is what you call a hasty generalization and is one of the most popular fallacies as of late. If litter was left behind at a climate strike where nearly 3.5 million people were estimated in attendance throughout the world, and there is a good chance that did happen, do you really think it is logical to call that entire group of people hypocrites for the actions of only a portion of those strikers? I don’t, but I would have to say it is up to the leaders of the movement to address any form of littering that may have taken place. And we really don’t know the extent of these actions unless we were there, do we?

What is most irritating to me about this fake photo being used to discredit a very important movement is the fact that the same people attempting to use that photo as fuel, refuse to blame the real culprits of pollution or admit that we are in fact facing a very serious problem. While we sit here trying to point the finger at individual action, we allow those major corporations who contribute to the majority of carbon emissions and production of the very items used to litter to just skip by without any accountability. These companies pollute our environment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and have been for decades. If you are privileged enough to not have to see it for yourself every day, I implore you to go hang out in the Delray neighborhood of Detroit’s Southwest side and tell me it isn’t a problem. So even if that viral photo was true, the amount of damage to the environment on that one day by that one movement, during that one event pales in comparison to the damage done by these companies on a daily basis.

I understand we are an angry society. We are always trying to “own” the other side in some way to try and prove our side is the right side, but we are really doing a lot of damage when we constantly take what we see on Facebook or our favorite news network at face value. It takes minutes if not seconds to find out if something is true and that’s all thanks to the people who take truth seriously and are tired of people hitting that ‘share’ button without thinking twice about it. Do the research and stop being part of the problem. You hate how people talk to each other these days? Then stop causing that disrespect. Over 200,000 people shared that false photo within 2 days of it being posted and not one of those 200,000 people attempted to verify it was accurate. Don’t be that person. I have reported that photo to Facebook as being fake and encourage anyone who comes across it to do the same until they do something about it. And to the people who willfully take these images knowing they aren’t accurate but so desperately want to stick it to those they disagree with, go do something productive for society.

Are charter schools a problem?

Illustration by Sarah DeMercurio

It would appear there is a war on education and no other institution is feeling the pain more than the public school systems. On Thursday September 19th, Michigan House Democrats voted alongside their Republican colleagues to pass a plan for k-12 funding. What seems like picture perfect bipartisanship soon revealed typical wheeling and dealing that ultimately resulted in a subpar budget. While special education would see an increase in funding, provision that would see a $50 per high school student increase removed by Republicans. While this $50 per student increase is far from satisfactory, when you have a struggling school system, any increase is helpful. This provision lead to several democrats casting a ‘NO’ vote. The reason? They felt Republicans had this provision removed because it would negatively affect charter schools. Since the majority of charter schools do not operate at high school level, passing a budget that would increase funding for high school students means money from the education budget would not reach charter schools. This led me to question how beneficial or damaging charter schools really are to the education system.

Since Betsy DeVos was appointed Secretary of Education by Donald Trump back in 2016, charter schools have been highlighted as a weapon in the war on public education. DeVos, a proponent of school choice, vouchers, and charter schools, was assumed to be on a mission to ensure the public school system would continue to fail. School vouchers and charter schools were being accused of siphoning much needed dollars from already struggling public schools. But when the idea of charter schools was first introduced in the 1980’s, it was an idea brought forth by Democrats. The first bill for charters was carried out by Minnesota Democrats in 1991. Since then, the teachers unions fought back and defending public education has seemed like a Democrat issue where pushing for school privatization became a Republican issue. This was certainly my impression, until current presidential candidate Andrew Yang made it abundantly clear he was in favor of charter schools. Or to quote Mr. Yang from the most recent Democratic debate, he is “pro good school.”

Admittedly, I was purposely not paying attention to the democratic race until at least half of the candidates dropped out. So, it really wasn’t until this last debate that I knew much of anything about Andrew Yang. It wasn’t until the topic of education arose that he really won my attention. Yang spoke about raising teacher wages and reducing the emphasis on standardized testing, saying the tests do not reflect the character of students. It’s hard to disagree with that, but why don’t we just focus on fixing our already established public school system? From Yang’s website:

It’s been demonstrated that teacher quality is the key factor in student success, and paying teachers more is an effective way to get more talented people into the classroom. My friend, Zeke Vanderhoek, started a charter school that manages to pay teachers $125,000 a year on the budget of a normal school. Not surprisingly, his school has great teachers and outstanding outcomes. We should reduce layers of administration in schools and apply the money to pay teachers at higher levels, particularly those who have proven track records and results.

Does this not sound as though he is blaming teachers for poor performance? As the daughter of a now retired high school teacher, I am well aware of the changes and challenges teachers were forced to deal with; No Child Left Behind, Standardized Testing, larger classrooms, CommonCore, so on and so forth. It is not the fault of the teachers. Yang accused Elizabeth Warren of being in bed with teacher’s unions. The fact that he attacked a union should raise a red flag for any left leaning voter. Charter school teachers are not unionized and that may be why so many more republicans embrace them. Yang should be trying to strengthen the union, not dismantle it.

I recently listened to an episode of the podcast Innovation Hub regarding charter schools. In this episode, Kara Miller interviewed David Osborn, director of Reinventing America’s School’s Program, and Chester Finn, a former secretary of education under Ronald Reagan and president emeritus of the Fordham Institute. Both had similar opinions on charter schools. Anyone can start a charter school. They are less regulated. They are schools of choice so you can opt in if you feel your child will benefit more from the charter school as opposed to the traditional district, and the curriculum can be structured in a way your community would benefit most. If the school fails, they close but if they succeed, more schools open and follow that structure.

Let’s take into consideration this idea of closing schools because they are failing. There is a sense of security with public schools. Unless you move or decide to place your children into a private school, your child/children will always know where they are headed next. I certainly did. I knew I was going to be attending Warren Woods Middle School and after that, Warren Woods Tower High School. Even if you were to move — and I had a number of friends move either in middle school or high school — that school district my friends or family moved to would be the district they would go on to graduate from. Charter schools don’t offer that same sense of security. Finn said it himself, “If they fail, we close them. If they succeed, we expand them and replicate them.” That might be good for the founder and/or CEO’s bottom line, but what about the affect on the children? Who’s to say the next charter school they attend won’t be a failure and close as well? I imagine this would deny that child a sense of stability that a child needs at such a young age and wouldn’t that negatively affect them?

Finn states charter schools are school’s of choice. They are a not assigned to the children. You opt in to them because you think they offer you or your child a better opportunity than the traditional district. Charter schools are publicly funded so there is no tuition, but they are independently operated. This leads me to ask, if we are giving tax-payer money to charter schools that claim they can operate better than public schools, why don’t we simply invest into the public school system and restructure them? Aren’t charter schools taking money away from public schools, ultimately hurting these already struggling schools? Osborne says that is impossible. When a child moves to a different school the money does not stay with that school, that money goes with the child. When asked if that still negatively affects the school losing a child to a charter school, Osborn then stated, ” It doesn’t change the numbers wildly.”

Osborne was then asked about his daughter, who had worked at a charter school in New Orleans. According to Osborne, this charter school was in a very poor community and predominantly African American. The biggest issue was the undermining of teachers. For instance, a fight would break out in classroom and students would be sent to the discipline dean. Instead of following the proper disciplinary procedures, the dean would send the kids back to class and nothing would get resolved. The school would end up losing a number of teachers due to this malfeasance. But if you ask a traditional public school teacher about their experiences, you will hear the same complaint. So when we argue that charters are helping with education by being able to offer a better opportunity, Osborne’s example of his daughter’s experience leads me to aurgue it has nothing to do with the charter school itself and more about the amount of money the school district has. If you compare the Utica School district, a local district here in Metro Detroit, to the Detroit Public School district, the differences are night day. Not only is the Utica School district predominantly white, it is also surrounded by more money. More than half of school funding comes from property taxes. The rest is covered by fundraisers or donations. If the average home value in Macomb Township is over $300,000 and the average home value in Detroit is around $50,000, Detroit schools are left to fight tooth and nail for any additional funding. So, any donations or fundraisers that school district might rely on suffers when children are pulled away from these districts and placed into charter schools. The Detroit School system was set up to fail a long time ago, and that unfortunately stems from white flight that we still see today.

The majority of charter schools are non-profit public schools, but are they truly non-profit? Due to their being granted full autonomy to operate, there are a couple of loopholes which would allow a “non-profit” charter to profit. For one, management companies are often used to help staff the charter schools. Take Huron Academy here in Southeast Michigan. Huron Academy is one of several charter schools founded by Ferris State University. Their website states they do not offer medical benefits because they staff the academy through a third party. That third party is CS Partners Solution out of Southfield, Michigan. CS Partner Solutions has been hired by 19 charter schools throughout Southeast Michigan and provides administrative and operational needs including staffing and financial services such as payroll. When a management company is hired by a charter school, furnishings, books, and any equipment necessary to operate are technically owned by that management company. If the school goes under, the management company has those assets to cash in on.

Another way to make money off charter schools would be in real estate. Huron Academy purchased a 30 acre parcel of land — with cash — for their second location in Clinton Township. Real estate is another great way to profit fro your non-profit charter. Real estate for charter schools is becoming a hot commodity, and founders are willing to pay top dollar for the right parcel. Since anyone can open a charter school, it is safe to say that if you operated a management company or real estate investment firm, you could technically open a charter school and hire your for-profit company to operate the school or receive some hefty interest payments off the land purchased for the school all at tax payers expense.

The debate over charter schools is likely to be one to continue for some time to come. With charters receiving support from both political parties, we will most likely continue to see caps being lifted and funding increases, all while our public school district continue to be ignored. This is not how the future of education should look. Instead of

We need a secretary of education who is willing to invest in the already established public school system. The system needs an overhaul of sorts. The teachers unions need to restructure if not form new ones. Curriculum must adapt to the changing times but with teacher input. This is where it

It would appear there is a war on education and no other sector is feeling the pain more than the public school systems. On Thursday September 19th, Michigan House Democrats voted alongside their Republican colleagues to pass a plan for k-12 funding. What seems like picture perfect bipartisanship soon revealed typical wheeling and dealing that ultimately resulted in a subpar budget. While special education would see an increase in funding, a provision that would see a $50 per high school student increase was removed by Republicans. While this $50 per student increase is far from satisfactory, when you have a struggling school system, any increase is helpful. This provision lead to several Democrats casting a ‘NO’ vote. The reason? They felt Republicans had this provision removed because it would negatively affect charter schools. Since the majority of charter schools do not operate at high school level, passing a budget that would increase funding for high school students means money from the education budget would not reach charter schools. This leads one to question how beneficial or damaging charter schools really are to the education system.

Since before Betsy DeVos was appointed Secretary of Education by Donald Trump back in 2016, charter schools have been viewed as a weapon in the war on public education. DeVos, a proponent of school choice, vouchers, and charter schools, was assumed to be on a mission to ensure the public school system would continue to fail. School vouchers and charter schools were being accused of siphoning much needed dollars from already struggling public schools. But when the idea of charter schools was first introduced in the 1980’s, it was an idea brought forth by Democrats. The first bill for charters was carried out by Minnesota Democrats in 1991. Since then, the teachers unions fought back and defending public education has seemed like a goal for Democrats where pushing for school privatization became a Republican issue. This was certainly my impression, until current presidential candidate Andrew Yang made it abundantly clear he was in favor of charter schools. Or to quote Mr. Yang from the most recent Democratic debate, he is “pro good school.”

Admittedly, I was purposely not paying attention to the democratic race until at least half of the candidates dropped out. So, it really wasn’t until this last debate that I knew much of anything about Andrew Yang. It wasn’t until the topic of education arose that he really won my attention. Yang spoke about raising teacher wages and reducing the emphasis on standardized testing, saying the tests do not reflect the character of students. It’s hard to disagree with that, but why don’t we just focus on fixing our already established public school system? From Yang’s website:

It’s been demonstrated that teacher quality is the key factor in student success, and paying teachers more is an effective way to get more talented people into the classroom. My friend, Zeke Vanderhoek, started a charter school that manages to pay teachers $125,000 a year on the budget of a normal school. Not surprisingly, his school has great teachers and outstanding outcomes. We should reduce layers of administration in schools and apply the money to pay teachers at higher levels, particularly those who have proven track records and results.

Does this not sound as though he is blaming teachers for poor performance? As the daughter of a now retired high school teacher, I am well aware of the changes and challenges teachers were forced to deal with; No Child Left Behind, Standardized Testing, larger classrooms, CommonCore, so on and so forth. It is not the fault of the teachers. Yang accused Elizabeth Warren of being in bed with teacher’s unions. The fact that he attacked a union should raise a red flag for any left leaning voter. Charter school teachers are not unionized and that may be why so many more republicans embrace them. Yang should be trying to strengthen the union, not dismantle it.

I recently listened to an episode of the podcast Innovation Hub regarding charter schools. In this episode, Kara Miller interviewed David Osborn, director of Reinventing America’s School’s Program, and Chester Finn, a former secretary of education under Ronald Reagan and president emeritus of the Fordham Institute. Both had similar opinions on charter schools. Anyone can start a charter school. They are less regulated. They are schools of choice so you can opt in if you feel your child will benefit more from the charter school as opposed to the traditional district, and the curriculum can be structured in a way your community would benefit most. If the school fails, they close but if they succeed, more schools open and follow that structure.

Let’s take into consideration this idea of closing schools because they are failing. There is a sense of security with public schools. Unless you move or decide to place your children into a private school, your child/children will always know where they are headed next. I certainly did. I knew I was going to be attending Warren Woods Middle School and after that, Warren Woods Tower High School. Even if you were to move — and I had a number of friends move either in middle school or high school — that school district my friends or family moved to would be the district they would go on to graduate from. Charter schools don’t offer that same sense of security. Finn said it himself, “If they fail, we close them. If they succeed, we expand them and replicate them.” That might be good for the founder and/or management company’s bottom line, but what about the effect on the children? Who’s to say the next charter school they attend won’t be a failure and close as well? I imagine this would deny that child a sense of stability that a child needs at such a young age and wouldn’t that negatively affect them?

Then there’s the charter school lottery. These lottery systems are most known in New York City, Boston, and Washington D.C. where charter’s have apparently succeeded. For instance, In 2014, New City charters saw 69,000 students apply for about 18,600 open seats. But these schools have succeeded how and at what cost? And is the lottery really fair? If you have you a student who’s parents can afford the time to travel from school to school to apply for these lotteries, but a single mother working 3 jobs only has time to make it to one or two, who do you think stands a better chance at winning one of those lotteries? There is still a level of inequality here that we fail to address when we continue this idea that charter school’s are legitimate alternative.

Finn states charter schools are school’s of choice. They are a not assigned to the children. You opt in to them because you think they offer you or your child a better opportunity than the traditional district. Charter schools are publicly funded so there is no tuition, but they are independently operated. This leads me to ask, if we are giving tax-payer money to charter schools that claim they can operate better than public schools, why don’t we simply invest into the public school system and restructure them? Aren’t charter schools taking money away from public schools, ultimately hurting these already struggling schools? Osborne says that is impossible. When a child moves to a different school the money does not stay with that school, that money goes with the child. When asked if that still negatively affects the school losing a child to a charter school, Osborn then stated, ” It doesn’t change the numbers wildly.”

Osborne was then asked about his daughter, who had worked at a charter school in New Orleans. According to Osborne, this charter school was in a very poor community and predominantly African American. The biggest issue was the undermining of teachers. For instance, a fight would break out in the classroom and students would be sent to the discipline dean. Instead of following the proper disciplinary procedures, the dean would send the kids back to class and nothing would get resolved. The school would end up losing a number of teachers due to this malfeasance. But if you ask a traditional public school teacher about their experiences, you will hear the same complaint. So when we argue that charters are helping with education by being able to offer a better opportunity, Osborne’s example of his daughter’s experience leads me to argue it has nothing to do with the charter school itself and more about the amount of money the school district has. If you compare the Utica School district, a local district here in Metro Detroit, to the Detroit Public School district, the differences are night day. Not only is the Utica School district predominantly white, it is also surrounded by more money. More than half of school funding comes from property taxes. The rest is covered by fundraisers or donations. If the average home value in Macomb Township is over $300,000 and the average home value in Detroit is around $50,000, Detroit schools are left to fight tooth and nail for any additional funding. So, any donations or fundraisers that school district might rely on suffers when children are pulled away from these districts and placed into charter schools. The Detroit School system was set up to fail a long time ago, and that unfortunately stems from white flight that we still see today. Yes, I will go there. Racism has absolutely played a role in our struggling school system.

The majority of charter schools are non-profit public schools, but are they truly non-profit? Due to their being granted full autonomy to operate, there are a couple of loopholes which would allow a “non-profit” charter to profit. For one, management companies are often used to help staff the charter schools. Take Huron Academy here in Southeast Michigan. Huron Academy is one of several charter schools founded by Ferris State University. Their website states they do not offer medical benefits because they staff the academy through a third party. That third party is CS Partners Solutions out of Southfield, Michigan. CS Partner Solutions has been hired by 19 charter schools throughout Southeast Michigan and provides administrative and operational needs including staffing and financial services such as payroll. When a management company is hired by a charter school, furnishings, books, and any equipment necessary to operate are technically owned by that management company. If the school goes under, the management company has those assets to cash in on.

Another way to make money off charter schools would be in real estate. Huron Academy purchased a 30 acre parcel of land — with cash — for their second location in Clinton Township. Real estate is another great way to profit from your non-profit charter. Real estate for charter schools is becoming a hot commodity, and founders are willing to pay top dollar for the right parcel. Since anyone can open a charter school, it is safe to say that if you operated a management company or real estate investment firm, you could technically open a charter school and hire your for-profit company to operate the school or receive some hefty interest payments off the land purchased for the school all at tax payers expense.

The debate over charter schools is likely to be one to continue for some time to come. With charters receiving support from both political parties, we will most likely continue to see caps being lifted and funding increases, all while our public school districts continue to be ignored. This is not how the future of education should look. State governments are constantly undermining teachers by forcing curriculum they no nothing about onto teachers or finding ways to weaken the teacher’s unions. We need unions. We have much to thank for unions. The only reason to do away with a teacher’s union would be to end public education and force school privatization. Schools should not be run like businesses in the free-market. We need to leave behind the charter schools and focus on investing in our public school districts so they can receive the proper funding needed to keep up with the needs of the public. And for crying out loud, we need a secretary of education who actually knows a thing or two about teaching and isn’t just a lobbyist for school privatization.

I will leave you with a quote from Sam Chaltain’s book Our School: Searching for Community in the Era of Choice.

Our democracy needs to be something we do, not something we have. When it comes to a nascent experiment like school choice, we have within us the capacity to turn an open marketplace of learning options into something creative and regenerative. But there is nothing automatic about it. Choice by itself leads to nothing.

Sam Chaltain

We are failing our children.

My unsolicited thoughts on the third Democratic Debate

I decided after the 2016 election I would never watch a debate on a work night. I get so worked up, my blood boils, then I’m up way too late either researching candidate’s claims or simply thinking about how annoying and unfair the moderators were. This time around I not only have to deal with these issues, I had to deal with way too many candidates who don’t stand a chance, wasting my time. I said no debate until half these people are gone. On Thursday, September 12th, the DNC hosted their 3rd debate. As much as I wanted to tune in, I knew better and saved it for listening at work. I’m glad I waited.

Julian Castro started off with what I thought was going to be a lame statement about how Democrats were going to get elected and change the world. He actually did offer something of substance that I agree with; “Our problems didn’t start with Donald Trump and we won’t solve them by embracing old ideas.” This is something Democratic voters need to keep mind, which I fear they are not. We cannot simply rely on Democrats to fix the problems in this country. We need to elect candidates who are actually going to implement these important changes, not just offer lip service then turn around and come up with any excuse to stick to the status quo. This was a good start.

Amy Klobuchar spoke second and so I’m just going to get this out of the way now and be done with her. How did she make it to this next round and how long before she drops out? The only person I’ve witnessed speak positively of her is Ann Coulter. That should tell you something and that’s really all I have to say about Klobuchar.

Healthcare

Joe Biden praised the Affordable Care Act then criticized Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for not having a substantial plan for how they would pay for Medicare For All. He brought up adding a public option which I would argue is not good enough. When you have a public option in conjunction with private insurance in a capitalist nation, how invested do you think the government would be in making sure the public option isn’t a complete disaster. I don’t believe that could ever work. I do believe we need one or the other and currently one is not working.

Buttigieg stated Sander’s Medicare For All bill doesn’t trust the American people. He says he trusts people to make “the best choice that works best for you” then went on to also suggest a public option and that “my way or the highway” was not realistic. The choices Americans have been given are not sustainable and causing more harm than good. The average American is paying around $500 a month for healthcare through the ACA — triple that for family plans — with a deductible of around $15,000. That’s insane. This has nothing to do with trust. This is about doing what is right and has worked for other nations. Buttigieg, who back in 2000 won an award for an essay he wrote praising Sanders, went on to state he trusts the American people, why doesn’t Sen Sanders; a bit presumptuous if you ask me.

Kamala Harris began by also praising Barack Obama and the ACA for “bringing us this far”. She then stated that 30 million Americans are still without health care. So, I’m a little confused about what is so praise-worthy of the ACA and why do we keep acting like it was this great thing to happen to Americans, save for that fact that my birth control was free. That was a plus and important. As someone who at one time needed to help my husband figure out insurance through the ACA, I can tell you it is a mess. She did give Sanders credit for bringing Medicare For All this far which I do feel is important to acknowledge regardless of how you currently feel about it.

Harris brings up the public option again and I just don’t understand how so many people would take a private option they pay astronomical prices for, over a public option. Unless of course the government finds a way to screw it up, which I do not doubt would happen.

O’Rourke stated on his plan, everyone who cannot afford the public option would automatically be enrolled in Medicare, however he failed to disclose what would determine who qualifies for this. Would it be Americans living below the poverty line? There are Americans living above the poverty line that still struggle to afford their healthcare.

Castro accused Biden’s plan of requiring recipients to opt in to Medicare then said on his plan you would automatically be enrolled. Biden fought back by stated he never said that. Biden did say that but I do think he simply did a sloppy job of explaining his plan, leaving an opening for Castro to attack it. If I’m not mistaken, Biden’s plan would automatically enroll those who make a certain amount below the poverty level although it would have to be significantly below the federal poverty level.

Buttigieg tried to score points by accusing Castro of trying to score points for arguing with Biden over what he did in fact say about his healthcare plan. Buttigieg literally did the same thing to Bernie Sanders when it was his turn to speak so this was annoying. Not only did he cutoff Yang who was given the floor, he also demonstrated a bit of hypocrisy.

Andrew Yang was the only candidate not supporting Medicare For All who actually said anything about the insurance companies being the problem. He didn’t offer too much of a plan but he did bring up the bureaucracy doctor’s need to deal with that I know is a major problem with our current healthcare crisis. I also was not aware that the Cleveland Clinic operated the way it does by getting paid for outcomes and not how many procedures they prescribe.

I would have appreciated a more in depth response calling out insurance companies for being what they are — scam artists — but I understand time allotted was not long enough for him to do so. The fact he brought up the problem with insurance companies is notable, however, and he is right.

Booker offered literally nothing. He’s in favor of Medicare For All but then said people need a solution now and Medicare For All would need time to be implemented. He also said this is our opportunity to make Trump a one-term president and that we can’t do that by continuing to speak to each other the way we do. Perhaps he was referring to the candidates but I think that can be applied to Democrats as a whole. I couldn’t agree more with that.

Booker closed by stating he would do all he could to ensure universal healthcare but that he would also work with his colleagues to make sure some form of progress would be made. So no real plan was brought forth by Booker; he just offered a bit of a kumbaya moment. This raises a red flag for me because I always felt Booker would be more of a “go with the flow” candidate as opposed to one pushing for legitimate change.

Overall, there was nothing too impressive with this portion of the debate. I didn’t feel anyone’s responses were very convincing. If Sanders and Warren want to sell the American people on Medicare For All, they will have to do a better job explaining how it will be paid for since that is the number one reason people don’t back it. Part of me feels they know one way to pay for it would be through cutting military spending but are taking caution in suggesting that. Realistically we are spending way too much on the military but you would have to deal with Americans complaining it would take jobs away from the troops or that it would make us less safe; two reasons I do not find compelling enough.

Racism

O’Rourke has shown in the past he understands the issue of systemic racism in this country and so I was not surprised with his response to how he would approach the issue. He understands and is not afraid to discuss the fact that slaves built this nation and their decedents have yet to benefit from that forced, horrific reality. He also brought up the racial inequality in education, healthcare, and income. The issue of racism is definitely O’ Rourke’s strong-suit. He at least sounds convincing, anyway.

What was most surprising and set him apart from any other candidate was his confident promise to sign into law a reparations bill. That is incredibly bold and would surely be met with much opposition, but it is something that should have been done decades ago. I could not find anything

Castro said he would put forth a police reform plan, something that absolutely needs to be addressed. I will be reading up on this plan next.

I appreciate Booker addressing the issue of calling someone a racist but failing to do anything about racism. He is right when he says, “We know Donald Trump is a racist but there is no red badge of courage for calling him that.” This is absolutely correct. I agree with his plan of establishing an office to target white supremacy, hate crimes, and correcting the plague that is and has been systemic racism. This is something that is long overdue and I do believe would be beneficial to this country.

Booker was the first to bring up the criminal justice system and also environmental racism within communities of color. The concern over environmental racism would be far more believable if he could provide a convincing plan to tackle the climate crisis.

When asked if his comment suggesting voting to reelect Trump is at best looking the other way on racism, Buttigieg says he was referring to the president’s conduct. He then explained that racism did not begin with Trump which seems to be something forgotten or ignored by liberals.

Buttigieg exhibited a legitimate understanding of systemic racism and shared his Douglass Plan for combating this issue. It is very refreshing not only hear candidates talking about the issue of systemic racism, but also offering real solutions to the problem.

Criminal Justice Reform

Kamala Harris has received much criticism from progressives privy to her record as DA and this did not go ignored by moderator Lindsey Davis who pointed out her contradictory criminal justice plan. Harris defended her past role by explaining she helped individuals find jobs instead of putting them in prison yet fought to keep people in prison even after they were found innocent. She helped implement training programs to address police officer’s racial bias but also refused to have to certain police shootings investigated. Those are just a couple of examples.

In Harris’ defense, not only is she a woman who grew up as someone forced into a racially biased system, her parents were also civil rights activists. Harris is no stranger to the challenges facing the black community. She also began her career at a time when the “tough on crime” approach was in full swing. It does seem as though she attempted to do the right thing but faced the pressure of a system stacked against her.

I can give Harris the benefit of the doubt on this topic although it is a very important topic that needs to be taken seriously. She did say the tides have changed and this is true. We are much more aware of the need to address systemic racism head on thanks to the diligent hard work of so many brave Americans willing to speak out about it. Because of them, the pressure is on and candidates are responding. I just need to know these candidates are not blowing smoke up our tushes for political points and I really hope Kamala means what she says about adapting with the changing tides.

Biden was confronted about his plan to release a number of non-violent drug offenders from prison but that according to Booker, this plan was not ambitious enough. In response to this, Biden did not exactly answer the question and instead offered instances from early on in his political career where he acted in defense of underprivileged communities. He then declared nobody should be jailed for a non-violent crime, nobody should be in jail for a drug problem but rather be sent to a rehabilitation center, marijuana offenders should have their records expunged, and upon being released from prison, those offenders should have their rights fully restored so they can get on with their lives. I agree with this and he is right, but there was no plan presented for implementing any sort of reform although he was cut off for time.

Biden also has his more recent record on criminal justice reform to worry about. Particularly his support for the 1994 crime bill which resulted in mass incarceration of people of color. He did admit back in January that “we haven’t always gotten things right” maybe referring to the 1994 bill, but the crime bill was never mentioned. If he wants to try and right his wrong, it would be best to address his support of the crime bill, what a mistake it was, and what he will do right that wrong. Avoiding the issue does nothing favorable for him.

Cory Booker may have the best record when it comes to criminal justice reform. He introduced the First Step Act back in 2018 that would reduce sentences, expand job training, and expand early release programs. First Step successfully earned bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Trump. He then introduced the Next Step Act which would cut mandatory minimum sentences, reinstate voting rights to former felons, and ban federal employers from asking about past criminal history.

Booker has also stated he would grant clemency to some 17,000 non-violent drug offenders and introduced the Marijuana Justice Act that would legalize marijuana and expunge the records of those who have been charged with a crime for using or possessing it.

Booker insisted during the debate that every candidate should say they would grant clemency to those 17,000 non-violent drug offenders. What Booker has working against him, however, is his time as mayor of Newark and some questionable actions of the Newark police department which resulted in the US Department of Justice intervening.

Gun Control

This is a tough issue. Biden was drilled for not getting things done after Sandy Hook but I question how fair that is since he was the Vice President and Congress was not willing to act. I was thoroughly annoyed during the time of Sandy Hook and then the other mass shootings that occurred after, but I can’t pin the blame on Biden for nothing getting done.

I agree with Harris on how traumatic these active shooter drills must be for our children. I think about this a lot and not only think it is incredibly unfair for our children to have to deal with that, it’s also incredibly unhealthy.

Harris also insisted that yes we can take guns away. I question this and need to research it more but feel without an amendment to the constitution, the government is limited in that regard.

I get the topic of gun violence is important to O’Rourke because of the recent assaults in El Paso, but this topic should be important to everyone on that stage. I agree that no one needs an AR-15. I’m sorry but that gun was designed to kill fast. You don’t need it for hunting no matter what hunters claim. No one needs it. Having said that, I highly doubt O’Rourke will actually take them away simply because I don’t believe he can. I appreciate his passion but I fear it is nothing more than reactionary.

The responses from the candidates were very similar and it’s just the same old “solutions” to a very complex issue. Most of them call for gun control but it’s hard to tell how they will actually accomplish this. And after 7 years since Sandy Hook with nothing being done to fix the issue, it is very hard for me to believe anything would change if a Democrat is elected.

I will say, however, that Warren is correct when she says we have “a gun violence issue and this is an issue they will have to come back to again and again and again.” This is not something that will change overnight and that’s why I don’t buy what O’Rourke said.

She also was the first candidate to bring up corruption in government which is without a doubt a problem on a multitude of issues we face. Without addressing the corruption, there is no point in even beginning to discuss how to curb gun violence.

Sanders also agrees on the level of corruption being the biggest obstacle and proudly announced his ‘F’ rating with the NRA that anyone should be proud of at this point. Where Warren and Sanders differ on this issue, however, is rolling back the filibuster. I don’t think it should be rolled back and I will tell you why. Sure the filibuster is annoying when it comes to an issue that harms Americans. If you have a bill that could protect Americans or help Americans in anyway and a greedy, corrupt Senator comes along to read from a phone book for 10 hours as a means of protecting the corporate lobbyist instead, that is shameful and I don’t blame anyone for wanting to do away with the filibuster. But when you have an issue that could hurt Americans and a Senator gets up to deliver a, say, 8 hour long speech explaining how this bill would hurt Americans and why we should vote against it, then the filibuster comes in handy. I bring up the example of an 8 hour speech because in 2010, Bernie Sanders delivered an 8 hour speech on the Senate floor when the Obama administration wanted to pass a tax bill that would once again place the burden on the average American and increase an already astronomical deficit. He wasn’t reading from a phone book or a cookbook; it was his own words coming from his long history of fighting against special interests and corporate greed. Unfortunately, the bill still passed, but Sanders gained a lot of attention for that speech. So in this instance, a filibuster was done correctly. A senator used this opportunity to speak to the American people to let them know someone hears them.

Now Sanders mentioned Budget Reconciliation as a way to push through legislation met with opposition. I won’t go into detail but you can read about the Act here. Basically it would grant the Vice President to say what is and isn’t an important enough issue to simply be pushed through with a simply majority and avoiding a filibuster. Now, through Sander’s eyes, he’s the good guy. He’s on your side. So any legislation order to be pushed through would be gun reform, climate change, healthcare, etc. If he were to become president this would work but it would also raise the issue of over-reach and that’s why I’m sure Budget Reconciliation has not been used yet. But it does exist, and if used for the right reasons, may prove to be acceptable.

In closing of this issue, I want to say that the gun issue goes deeper than just taking away guns. We have been brainwashed in a way. We are under-educated, over-worked and underpaid, and we have been lead to believe our neighbor is our enemy. We have politicians, religious leaders, mainstream media, and misinformed Facebook memes fanning the flames. There is much to correct before you can even think about taking anyone’s guns away. But I will say this. To the people who claim they have a right to their weapons in order to protect themselves from the government; we spend $750 billion a year on the military. You wouldn’t stand a chance against your own government.

Immigration

I didn’t expect much from this topic simply because I expected the same old nonsense about how “Democrats are going take back the White House and pass immigration reform!” Ok. But what does that mean?

What Americans don’t realize and what candidates wouldn’t dare explain is that the United States helped fuel the immigration crisis through decades of unnecessary intervention: Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, for instance. We created our own crisis.

In conjunction with decades of US intervention, you have capitalist ideals that are literally forcing people to flee in order to survive. One example is Coca-Cola and their bottling plant in Chiapas, Mexico. Coca-Cola, like Nestle here in Michigan and elsewhere, is taking water from Chiapas for free and creating such a water shortage that the people of Chiapas are forced to buy bottled water. Does that sound sustainable? The same companies investing in Coca-Cola in Chiapas also happen to own the majority of convenience stores in the area selling this water and Coca-Cola back to the people. I don’t know about you, but I have a problem with this.

If Americans want to curb immigration, they need to understand we are partially to blame for the crisis and we need to demand our government cease any further intervention that could cause humans to seek refuge. We also need to reconsider the power we grant these corporations to move into vulnerable areas of the world where they steal their resources for profit and force people out of their homes.

But anyway, here’s what the candidates had to say.

Elizabeth Warren KIND OF started to discuss the crisis in Central American but fell short by not including we aid in that crisis. Then she blamed Trump for the crisis. I disagree here. Trump did not create the crisis. He is taking advantage of a broken system Democrats had ample opportunity to fix in the past. What is taking place at the border is disgusting, cruel, and something every American should be ashamed of, but we need to be realistic in how we got to this point in the first place.

Sanders should’ve been asked to comment on this issue. I’m sure his response would have been similar to or more comprehensive than Warren’s.

This is where I have to leave this issue. I understand other candidates have plans whether to streamline the immigration process, increase the amount of immigrants allowed in each year, or making every Dreamer a legal citizen right now, but I really need a candidate to be honest about how we help create the immigration crisis in the first place.

Trade

Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders won me here. Warren rightfully stated that our trade policy has been broken for decades because it only works for the multinational corporations. When she says she wants to negotiate with farmers, unions, environmentalists, and human rights activists at the table, I could not agree more.

NAFTA was not helpful to Americans. It was destructive. I am glad Sanders voted against it because he is right. At this time in our history, we should be making more money than we are and a direct cause of that is the horrible trade policies.

Sanders response was not surprisingly similar to Warren’s and I heard him speak on this issue years ago. It’s important to keep in mind this is an issue Sanders has been preaching about for nearly 30 years.

I don’t doubt whoever gets the nomination, and if they become elected, will reverse the tariff’s on China. Unless Sanders or Warren become president, I don’t see much getting done in the way of trade that hurts American workers. I hope I can be proven wrong.

National Security

Elizabeth Warren: “We cannot bomb our way out of Afghanistan.” Correct. There has been no real strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq was a disastrous mistake. We are literally creating more terrorists with are horrible foreign policy. It is time to end the wars in the Middle East and stop funding countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel in their mission to obliterate other nations.

Buttigieg made some good points about Afghanistan that I myself think about often. One important and disturbing fact is that kids born after 9/11 are now old enough to serve without having any recollection of that day. Think about that. So, I appreciate his claim that he would put a stop to endless war because we must. This is unsustainable.

One thing he didn’t go into to much detail about at all was his plan to repeal and replace the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), allowing the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.” This is what allowed Bush to start the conflict in Afghanistan that appears to have no end in sight. Under Buttigieg, Congress would have a say as to whether or not troops should be sent. It’s a start.

I appreciate Biden admitting it was wrong to support the AUMF. Unfortunately what’s done is done. As far as Obama taking troops out of Iraq, I’m not sure would could have been done differently and that’s something I need to research more on. I do believe we need to get troops out of these conflicts, but I understand it is a complex issue. Like Buttigieg said, we should be avoiding getting involved in the first place.

Sanders will always be able to say he never believed Bush and Cheney and so he refused to vote for an invasion. We should all be grateful his had the brains and guts to stand up for the right thing. Regardless of how you feel about him, that is praiseworthy. I will always appreciate his refusal to vote in favor of expanding military budgets. Our investment in the military is one of our biggest mistakes.

Yang is right to say we aren’t good at rebuilding countries. All you have to do is look at how we handled the Afghan/Soviet conflict in the 80’s. We armed Afghan rebels, including Osama Bin-Laden, to help them defeat the Soviet Union. Once the conflict was over, did we help Afghanistan rebuild what we helped destroy? No we did not. This led to some bitterness to say the least which gave rise to terrorist organization such as the Taliban.

Bernie Sanders was once again asked to explain the difference between “his socialism” and the socialism found in Venezuela and Cuba. Once again he explained democratic socialism is what you will find in Canada and Scandinavian countries. If you still don’t understand democratic socialism, if you still don’t understand DS advocates for healthcare, higher wages, affordable living, and education, then I cannot help you.

Climate Crisis/Foreign Policy

Booker had an opportunity to explain the importance of reducing our meat consumption but instead, laughed off his veganism as simply being a personal choice. He did however state that factory farms a major problem in this country. He fell short of explaining they contribute significantly to the climate crisis.

Beto was called out for taking contributions from the fossil fuel industry and asked how he would combat climate change. Beto always has a lot to say but it would be more convincing if he wasn’t taking money from big oil.

What I need candidates to say is they will hold companies accountable for manufacturing single use plastics, introduce a comprehensive plan to encourage reduce and reuse, and establish an effective recycling system. We need stricter regulations for factory farms if we aren’t going to abolish them as well as pesticides and fertilizers. Of course we need to invest in renewable energy and force corporations to significantly reduce their carbon emissions. That’s just naming a few things that need to change if we are serious about combating climate change.

Warren has an ambitious plan to cut 70% of carbon emissions by 2035. I can get on board with that and I don’t really care what it takes to make that happen. It needs to.

Education

If Yang believes charter schools are just as important as public schools, I don’t want him in office.

I appreciate Buttigieg’s view on education. I 100% believe we need to include critical thinking into the curriculum. We also need to pay teachers more. That goes without saying.

Warren’s plan is acceptable. We do need a secretary of education who knows what’s it’s like to be a school teacher. I appreciate her plan to cancel 95% of student debt but I like Sen. Sanders plan to cut it 100% even better.

I cannot get over Biden’s reaction to being asked to respond to the topic of inequality in schools and race. It’s quite telling if you ask me. He botched this question more than any other question he was asked. It literally made no sense.

Booker lost me with praising charter schools.

We are not taking education seriously in the country and it is beginning to really show. Class sizes need to drop. Pay must increase. Curriculum must change to reflect our little awakening in society, meaning, let’s focus more extensively on honest American history — slavery, colonialism, racism, and I would say our foreign relations — and give teachers more power to discipline. By discipline — for instance — I mean if you establish a rule to keep your phone in your backpack and never take it out, suffer the consequences of having that phone taken away without a parent complaining to the principle. If there is an emergency, call the front office. That’s what we did when I was in school.

Conclusion

This wasn’t as terrible as I feared it would be. I was pleasantly surprised by certain responses from some of the candidates. Unfortunately, no one was too consistent except for Warren and Sanders when he was given an opportunity to respond.

I think Klobuchar, Harris, Yang, Castro, Booker, and Biden need to drop out. I don’t see O’Rourke getting the nomination and I feel Buttigieg may have his young age working against him — at least it is for me. I know they are pushing for Biden but I view him more as a liability than the shoo-in so many think he is. We are in trouble as a nation and we need someone who is radical enough to implement the changes that need to happen.

We Have Taken Recycling For Granted For Too Long

We’ve all seen the 3 arrow symbol in the shape of a triangle on all that packaging we collect and most people refer to it as the “recycling symbol”. That is exactly why I decided to write this article. We have been referring to that triangle as the recycling symbol when it was originally intended to urge consumers to reduce first, then reuse, then when all else fails, recycle. Reduce, reuse, recycle. We have been skipping those first two crucial steps and jumping straight for the least beneficial step of them all.

The purpose of this article is to try and explain how recycling became so ineffective and to convince at least one person to start implementing those first two steps. On a planet of over 7 billion and counting, however, I am afraid it is going to take at least 1 million more to make any sort of impact.

BUT I RECYCLE! Says most everyone.

So many times I have found myself engaged in conversation about waste when just as I think things are going well, the person I happen to be conversing with proudly states, “oh we recycle.” I then have to kindly explain how that doesn’t really help the situation and is actually part of the problem. Once I begin to suggest reducing waste in the first place, it is safe to say I have lost their attention and the conversation is over with. Sometimes I find myself back peddling and sugar-coating the situation to spare any hurt feelings from suggesting the person is doing it wrong. After all, who wants to hear they are wrong when they thought they were getting it right? But what good does it do to sugarcoat a very serious problem? None at all. If anything, I’ve just given that person every reason to not recycle because, well, I basically told them there’s no point. Nevertheless, I continue onward even though the task at hand is great.

Getting people to write their representatives about implementing greener solutions to everyday use is hard enough. Getting people to consider reducing their waste seems even harder. Surrendering is no longer an option though, and we need to keep having these conversations regardless of how uncomfortable it may be for some.

WHERE DID THE THREE R’s COME FROM?

Finding out exactly who came up with Reduce, Reuse, Recycle or when it was introduced has proven to be a bit difficult to pinpoint, but I am pretty sure it was created in 1970 by University of Southern California student Gary Anderson as part of a contest tied to the very first Earth Day. We have known about our waste problem for almost 50 years and we have literally done nothing about it. If anything, we’ve made it worse. Thanks, single-use plastic inventors of the 1950’s and neoliberalism of the 1980’s!

WHY DON’T WE IMPLEMENT THEM?

I am not an expert. However, I am a thinker and have my own idea of why we don’t attempt to implement those first two ‘R’s. For one, we aren’t taught to. As long as I can remember it has always been recycle, recycle, recycle. Kids aren’t taught conservation or the importance of protecting the planet in school and since parents weren’t taught that either, it has just gotten lost in the shuffle of our everyday, overworked, stressed out, busy lives. Since it was never implemented in the previous generation, it doesn’t get handed down.

There’s never any time!

Waste reduction is literally a lifestyle change, and who has the time or patience for that? I know people with dishwashers who still insist on disposable plates and cutlery. We have been fed the idea that we are too busy to even place a plate and fork into the machine that washes the dishes for us. Holy crap we are screwed.

consumerism is the American way and convenience is king

Consumerism in the United States is a part of our culture. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements and messages reminding us we have no time. So when you see something marketed as “convenient”, who wouldn’t reach for that product instead of making it yourself? You can buy anything you need ready to go to get you through your day. We can now order our groceries online and have them delivered to us, a service that is great for someone physically unable to shop for themselves, but overwhelmingly used by able-bodied people who don’t have time or simply don’t want to shop for themselves.

In America, convenience is king and the cheaper the better, especially when it comes to “things”. That IKEA dresser you bought broke? No problem. It doesn’t cost much so we’ll just throw it away and get a new one. Gone are the days of spending money on quality items to keep for most of your life and simply fix when it breaks. Or the gadgets! Oh those gadgets. You can buy a breakfast sandwich maker instead of frying an egg while your English muffin toasts because who has 5 minutes for that? I guarantee that sandwich maker will take longer. Not to mention the space it takes up. But you run out of room and so you just buy a bigger house so you can buy more things to use once and toss away.

It’s a vicious cycle and oh so American. There’s not enough time to fry an egg and toast a muffin. That’s because we are overworked. In the 1930’s, an economist by the name of John Maynard Keynes predicted his grandchildren would be working 15 hour work weeks. With all the advancements in technology, we should be working less. Unfortunately, that is very un-American. We are kept busy, stressed, and poor and left with no time to really think about how life could be if we demanded better. But that’s for another article. I bring this up because it all goes back to why we can’t take the time to do things the “less convenient” way and significantly reduce our waste which we are in such dire need of doing.

OUT OF SIGHT OUT OF MIND

We’ve all seen the photos of trash washed up on the banks of a river in India, or the great garbage patch some people think doesn’t actually exist. But there is a disconnect for many people when it comes to seeing something in a photograph rather than in person. I was on my way home from the grocery store where I suffered a silent anxiety attack watching the amount of plastic bags being used for the woman in front of me. On my way home I looked around me and noticed how clean the busy street and lawns were. Not a piece of garbage in sight! No wonder people don’t realize the garbage issue. We are so good at hiding it. Realistically we are just really good at shipping our trash overseas and leaving that mess for China until earlier this year when they started refusing our waste. So now that Chine won’t take our recyclables of our hands, they will most likely just end up in a landfill. Is that enough to get you to reconsider your waste? I will assume not.

IT IS BECOMING LESS OF A VIABLE SOLUTION

Recycling received a slow start in the 70’s with bottle returns. By the 90’s, many municipalities began offering curb-side pick-up, but even in the new millennium, a good portion of America is still expected to take their own recycling to the nearest recycling center. I know for a fact, people in these areas were not taking the initiative to transport their recyclables to these centers, although some were.

Aiding in our own recycling programs was the shipping of our waste to China to be recycled into items such as new plastic products. Unfortunately, China realized this was no longer profitable and began refusing our crap.

Another issue with American recycling is that we don’t do it right. Did you know you can’t recycle a greasy pizza box? That’s because the paper is contaminated. Lids, straws, cutlery, are not recyclable yet I know people think they are. And if you have a plastic container that is recyclable, you need to clean it out. Otherwise, it will contaminate the rest of the items and those are no longer recyclable. You can read more about how to properly recycle here.

With China no longer accepting our trash, and the fact that we don’t really know how to properly recycle, most of our recyclables are ending up in the trash anyway. We simply consume way too much.

SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE

I would never shame someone for not “getting” the importance of reducing waste. I can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do, and at a time when we are very self-centered (to be clear I understand there is a reason for that and it has to do with our programming) making someone feel bad for their everyday decisions is just a bad idea. The last thing we need is more people rebelling and deliberately doing unsustainable things just to stick it to the environmentalists. The people who see the problems and want change need allies — more like an army.

There are ways to suggest certain lifestyle changes. Show off your new reusable produce bags and check out shops such as Life Without Plastic. Give a public shout out to the new Kleen Kanteen you bought for water refills. Complement your local coffee shop who was wiling to fill your own to-go cup instead of just taking the throw away cup they normally give. Find an awesome outfit at the thrift store and shamelessly show that off. And definitely make an effort to food prep for the work week. There are a ton of recipes online for quick, easy, and healthy meals. It will become routine.

I only mention a few ways someone can reduce their waste. What we really need to be doing is vote with our wallets, vote for the candidates who have shown a genuine concern for the environment and social well-being of all Americans, and be annoyingly diligent at writing your representatives! Join Facebook groups to stay up to date on certain actions you can perform. There are groups out there who organize and take it to their state capitol. That is what needs to happen. We need global mobilization of citizens around the world demanding change. There is over 7 BILLION of us. The amount of major polluters pale in comparison. We have to stop letting these companies get away with poisoning us and our planet and we need to hold our governments accountable when it comes to certain policy. Pay attention to what is going on at the city and state level and push those in charge to do right by the people.

I implore people to reduce their waste however best they can, but let’s not forget it shouldn’t be up to us to clean up the mess our governments have allowed. It’s time we demand better by the people we pay with our own hard-earned money.

FIND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE

WASTE REDUCTION SOLUTIONS

Yes, Plastics Contribute To Climate Change. No, Straws Are Not The Only Problem.

I am aware of the many issues facing the planet. Over population, climate change, depletion of natural resources, endangered species, etc. Can I wave a magic wizard wand and make it better? No, I cannot. And sorry to say but praying aint gonna do it either. We need to act. So how do you get the government to put their foot down on these gigantic polluters and say, “No more. You’re done.” It seems damn near impossible. This is where I think change from the bottom on up comes into play. A wise man mentioned change happens from the bottom on up but his name conveniently slips my mind. Ok, so what kind of change? Well, why not start with consumerism? We all need to reduce our waste and you can do that by reducing your consumption. After all, it is reduce, reuse, THEN (when all else fails) recycle. We just sort of skip those first two and go straight to that third and least helpful step. And what seems to have many environmental enthusiasts freaking out about? Plastics. That sounds like a great place to start, or so I thought.

DON’T GET DISTRACTED WITH THE BIGGER FIGHT

I was feeling confident in my push to educate others and try to convince them to reconsider their plastic consumption. My husband and I have already been making an effort and it is much easier than one might think. I could tell people were becoming annoyed with my social media posts, however, which I found disheartening. If I couldn’t get those closest to me to reconsider their choices, especially after sharing my fears I have for my child, how was I going to convince an entire country? Nevertheless, I persisted. Then one day I saw “the tweet”.

“not to say plastic pollution isn’t a problem, rather there are much bigger problems facing the world we live in – specifically climate change.”                                                                                 

“Um. What?” I thought. Isn’t this part of the climate crisis? I mean we do know where plastics come from right? How would plastic production and manufacturing not play a role? And to have all those items just sitting there for all eternity. How is this not a problem? To help explain why this is so concerning to me, let’s consider how plastics are made. I am going to focus strictly on the biggest culprits and easiest to ditch such as cutlery, bags, to-go containers, straws, packaging for food and toiletries, etc, since they are responsible for 30% of plastic production. The plastic used for these particular items is mainly derived from polypropylene which begins as fossil fuel, the same fossil fuel your car runs on, and is then distilled and mixed with catalysts to eventually form plastic pellets. These pellets are then shipped to various manufacturers to make all kinds of wonderfully, non-biodegradable items that will be with us forever. For a more scientific explanation, check out this pdf.

FOSSIL FUELS. NOT JUST FOR YOUR AUTOMOBILE

When we consider the ways fossil fuels are extracted — drilling and mining — then transporting them and manufacturing them, one can see how dirty, damaging, and wasteful plastics are. You’re drinking water out of a vessel made from the same material your car runs on. This is the same material that helps poison your water, making you rely on water sold in a vessel made from that material that poisoned your water in the first place. It’s a horrible cycle beginning with an incredibly dirty process. Take fracking for instance, which requires an absurd amount of water and chemicals. One well takes 3 to 6 million gallons of water per well, and an additional 15,000-60,000 gallons of chemicals to extract the material. Much of the chemicals used in fracking are unregulated so the exact amount or type of chemical used is a mystery. That should piss you off. Of the known chemicals, 25% were found to be cancerous. Again, Why aren’t you pushing for change? Why are we accepting this?

It appears climate activists (not all) feel you need to push hard for clean energy now, no excuses, and forget the plastic problem. But you aren’t going to make that happen. There is still much to consider and unfortunately, politicians know that could hurt their careers if they push too hard to change industries which not only contribute to their campaigns, but also employ American citizens who could be left without jobs if a proper transition is not implemented. Why are democrats so afraid to even touch climate change? Sure they might mention it to look good, but has any one other than Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez really pushed for true change with an actual plan? Even still you have a population of Americans working for these industries who don’t feel confident they will have job training waiting for them once their coal mine is shut down. I really hope some of these politicians go speak with some of these folks. The coal miners in Kentucky, for instance, have been blocking coal from being delivered until they get their back pay. Those guys are interested in a transition to cleaner energy but they aren’t sure it will actually happen. I sympathize with people in these positions because it is their livelihood and they don’t know what else to do.

SO WHAT DO WE DO?

I don’t have all the answers and would never claim to. What I do have though, is the power of observation and a mind that won’t shut off. I see people talking about the climate crisis, but no one really doing anything. As someone who lives in the Metro Detroit area, I can tell you I don’t expect anyone in my life to ditch their cars anytime soon, or choose a job closer to home, or install solar panels on their over-sized house. What I can see is someone thinking twice about the products they purchase if they know how detrimental plastics are to the planet. I can see someone realizing recycling is becoming less helpful and is no longer a reason to feel good about your consumption, that reducing first is the more beneficial action. You can’t force people into major change. Unfortunately, you need to ease them in. Start from the bottom and work your way up. Educate. Enlighten. We may be running out of time, but we are too focused on what the Real Housewives are up to to care. Or we are convinced we are too busy or just can’t be burdened with all this devastating news while we are preoccupied with keeping up with Joneses. How do you get the government to act when the majority of their constituents don’t care? I’m sorry but I think it’s baby steps. So yes, push for major change, but offer everyday solutions to a much bigger problem. We need major energy overhaul in this world but until we get that, let’s focus on the things we can change right now.

By the way, after reading about the water wasted on fracking fuel for your disposable partyware, I don’t want hear anything about the water used to launder my infants bamboo reusable diapers.

Why I Don’t Want A Baby Shower

First, allow me to begin by saying the intention of this article is not to make anyone feel bad. The intention is to hopefully make people think differently. 

I am almost 37 years old and currently 18 weeks pregnant with our first child. It certainly isn’t something that happened immediately. We began to think it wasn’t going to happen which we would’ve accepted. We also waited due to hesitation. That hesitation originated from contemplating the kind of a world we would be bringing another human into. Let me repeat that we are bringing a human into the world. Not a cute, tiny, squishy baby. This tiny squishy baby is going to grow up to be a walking, talking, decision-making human-being. And it is our responsibility to raise this kid differently than the average person may consider “normal”. Having said that, I believe raising this kid differently begins now, in utero, and that is why I don’t think I want a baby shower. 

“Of course, you need a baby shower”, they say. “They” being my very loving, very generous family. I love them dearly, but it’s very hard for some people to see things the way you do. Especially when you are a weirdo like me. I know 5 people out of my entire circle of people who would understand and support why I wouldn’t want one, and I feel lucky to have those 5 people in my life right now. It reminds me I’m not alone in my thinking. But allow me to explain why I don’t want a baby shower and why perhaps you should consider skipping one too. 

I HATE BEING THE CENTER OF ATTENTION Not everyone can relate, but neither I nor my husband enjoy being on display. Our wedding shower was torture for both of us. There were too many people there we don’t even really know watching us opening gifts for what seemed like hours. For someone with social anxiety, it was the least bit enjoyable. Then I feel responsible for everyone having a good time. If someone shows up who doesn’t know anyone, I feel I need to take them under my wing so they don’t feel uncomfortable. Then I worry about them the whole time. I am not wired to enjoy being the guest of honor. I also hyperventilated before walking down the aisle at our wedding because I didn’t want to stand up there in front of an audience. I had stage fright as a child and I still suffer from it. I know a baby shower would produce the same anxiety and this time I can’t pop a Xanax and down a bunch of mimosas to make it go away.  

HOW MANY THINGS DOES A BABY NEED? When my mother approached me about considering a shower, she told me to start putting a list together of things we would need. As my list grew, I thought, “wow this is more than I thought.” Then I hit a wall. I looked at my list and the items on it, and it really did not seem like anything I couldn’t put together using second-hand items.

There are mom groups all over Facebook, Facebook Marketplace, thrift stores, UpCycle, Craigslist, other people in your life who may have things you can have. For the first year of my child’s life, all they will want is a clean diaper and a boob. Later on, they may benefit from a toy but they certainly don’t need a room full of toys. The only toys we plan on having for this child will be bamboo or made from some other sustainable material, and MINIMAL. More studies are being released suggesting all these toys don’t necessarily benefit the growing child and can hinder imagination and creativity. Those are two important things I plan to nurture.  

As far as clothing, It will be winter in Michigan. This baby won’t be leaving the house for a while and will be living in sleepers. Not to mention Christmas is 1 week after the baby is scheduled to arrive. I have a feeling we’ll be good in that department.

I ONLY WANT WHAT I NEED I can’t tell you how many forums I have read so far where women talk about how they didn’t receive the glass bottles they registered for, but they did receive 7 different pink, frilly dresses. This is the only reason we are not finding out the sex until after the shower if we choose to have one. One of my fears with a shower is not receiving what I need. If I registered for it, it’s because I need it. You don’t want to be the only person who only gifted 2 cloth diapers? Too bad. I need them. I would never judge someone for buying me what I need, even if it’s just one item. I will most likely become annoyed, however, if I get things I don’t need while the “boring” stuff I do need goes ignored because that toy or garment you saw is just so damn cute.

THE CONCEPT OF A SHOWER PERPLEXES ME Think about it. You spend a bunch of money to feed and entertain people —most of whom don’t even want to be there according to almost every person in my life — in exchange for gifts. Why not use that money to just buy what you need? When the idea of a shower was presented to me, it was suggested we have it in a hall. For the cost of renting a hall, feeding 40+ people on top of buying us those big-ticket items we need (they said they would buy us a crib) you could literally buy everything on our registry. We are going about this minimally. We literally registered for only necessities and no, a butt wipe warmer is not one of them. I will not register for more than we need just to accommodate more people. It seems silly. 

I understand there is a social aspect to the shower. It’s an opportunity for friends and family to come together and celebrate the mother-to-be, but that bothers me as well and leads me to my next point. 

I STILL WORRY AND HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO I worried the entire first trimester about miscarrying. Once I entered the second trimester, I felt a little better but I know that anything can go wrong at any moment during this pregnancy. For that reason, I don’t feel comfortable celebrating something that hasn’t happened. Can you imagine coming home to a room full of things for your baby that never took their first breath? Many women don’t have to imagine that because it happens more than you think. We just don’t want to talk about it. So aside from the essentials needed to care for a newborn, I would rather people gift things after the baby is born and healthy if they really feel the need to. 

THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO NEED A SHOWER MORE THAN ME I Don’t come from a rich family but I do come from a family who can afford to help buy the larger items such as a crib and car seat. There are a lot of mothers out there who don’t have that. What I would love more than anything in place of a shower is for those in my life who can afford to buy us things for the baby gift them to mothers in need. I will make it work because I can. Some women don’t have that option and quite frankly, I feel kind of guilty having people make a fuss over me when there are people in this country who could use it more.

Some people might take what I just wrote as being ridiculous and ungrateful but that is the problem with our society. I am bringing a human into a world of excess against their will. We are programmed to want things we don’t need, especially when it comes to babies; things that require finite resources to produce, pollute, and destroy this planet that is in dire straits. We mindlessly consume without thinking where the products come from or where they go when they break, and we simply toss them away. If we choose to ignore the problems in this world because we can’t be bothered, challenged, or it goes against the societal norm, I don’t know what it will take to make people start caring. I just know we need to rethink these outdated traditions or simply ditch them all together.

Expecting In A World Gone Mad

I’m pregnant.

I am not the best when it comes to announcing things like this and neither is my husband. I’m pretty sure he still hasn’t told his employer yet and I am currently 18 weeks pregnant. I’ve never felt comfortable announcing things such as this. I don’t care for attention and I am sensitive to those who have been struggling to conceive. But the biggest reason for my inability to shout, “I’m pregnant!” from the rooftops? What the hell kind of a world am I bringing a human into? It isn’t something I am taking lightly.

I am of “advanced maternal age”. I believe it used to be called “geriatric pregnancy”. Isn’t that nice. There is a reason for our decision to have a child later. For one it didn’t happen instantly, but I also hesitated for a while because I wasn’t sure it was right. I never questioned if Chris or I were fit to be parents. Never. It’s society and the state of the world that made me think twice. We are over-populated, we overly and mindlessly consume finite resources without thinking twice about it, our water is polluted, our soil is polluted, our air is polluted, our food is poisoned, land is being destroyed for development faster than I can keep up, we hate each other, perpetual war seems to have become acceptable. Should I keep going? Why would anyone want to bring an innocent life into this world? 

I was told once the fact I care about these things is exactly why I should be having a kid. “We need more people like you to have kids so things can change.” I appreciate the sentiment, but this is a David vs Goliath situation. What if we successfully raise an empathetic, aware, mindful human, respectful of the natural world? How many of their peers will feel the same? Will society still manage to destroy our best efforts of raising a conscientious human? Is it too late to try? When will we break the cycle?

I’m not having a human because I feel I should. I’m not having one so we have someone to take care of us when we are older. I would never expect that. I’m bringing a human into this world because I believe my husband and I are ready to raise someone to do the right thing and maybe, just maybe, help society. But even if they go on to care, they can’t do it alone. We can’t expect their generation to be the ones to fix the mess we have created. What an incredible burden to leave behind! We are too far gone. It’s our responsibility to change things and it needs to start now.