One of the most striking characteristics of the last American presidential election was the amount of fact-baseless claims politicians have made. Candidates simply made statements about climate change, whether or not it was true -without deeming to source their information at all. The man who perpetrated this most of all? America’s newest President: Donald Trump. Since taking office, he has instituted a number of policies that seem to bring America closer towards an industrialisation-era style of deregulation and lack of any thought given towards the environment.
Whether or not you voted for him, it brings about an interesting question. Why would the public vote for a man who routinely claimed that scientists had political bias? What does this say about how much the public trusts science?And, what does that have to do with climate change policy?
The Pew Research Centre asked both scientists and other respondents last year about their opinions on different topics. For example, while 88 percent of scientists say that genetically modified foods (GMOs) are safe to eat, 37 percent of American adults agree with them. That’s a huge 51 point gap between the two. Even worse is that once the respondents are broken down between Republican and Democrats, in 2014, Pew found that 42 percent of Republican voters view scientists as liberal - not independent.
That is a problem - because climate change policy is rooted in how scientists view what is happening on the planet today and where it will go in the future. Listening to scientists brought President Obama and the majority of other world countries to sign the Paris Climate Agreement, something that President Trump has already withdrawn from. He withdrew from this agreement because politically - it was the right choice to stand with his constituents, even if scientists in both his administration and outside stress the urgent need for global change.
Much of public distrust can be rooted in the fact that scientists are grouped with the “elite,” where Republicans often place much of their disagreements and problems. Further, in the past years, there have been many instances where false positives have gained national or international traction before being retracted. For every one study telling one result, there is another that boldly claims the opposite. What is published online does not include research methodology or the statistical significance of their findings.
Climate change policy, in the simplest form, is political solutions for climate related problems. It can also be called environmental policy and it should rely on facts rather than short-term political gain. How we can fix this has to do with regaining the public trust in science. That means better research, higher standards of statistical significance, more transparency, and learning how to talk about science in a way that is easy for everyone to understand. Public trust in science might be at a low right now - but creating good climate change policy relies on it being much higher. Where will scientists take the first step?
The Senate has no resolution to vote on a measure that would halt a government shutdown, and without a rare showing of bipartisanship - the government will shut down. Although the House of Representatives, during the last minutes of Thursday, passed a bill to avert the shutdown - the Senate provides no such hope. This might come as a surprise sinceboth the House and Senate are controlled by the Republican Party. A citizen might assume that they could pass anything.
However, the Senate has a supermajority rule - meaning that 60 out of 100 senators will need to approve this funding proposal. Therefore, the vote requires votes from both parties, Democrats and Republicans alike. The House of Representatives, on the other hand, has no such rule. The House Republicans were able to pass the government funding bill without the help of Democrats with a vote of 230-197. This bill will fund the government until February 16.
The issues at stake are: government funding, CHIP, and the continued DACA/Dreamers program. Republican Senators argue that continuing to support short-term government funding bills harms the military. Democrats on the other hand refuse to support the bill because it does not address the DACA issue. CHIP is the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, to which billions of dollars of funding was added in the House Republican bill.
DACA or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is essentially a program designed to help young undocumented immigrants stay in the country who entered as minors. Dreamers, those who have received help from DACA, were eligible to receive deferred action from deportation and a work permit. President Trump plans to scrap it, thereby sending hundreds of thousands of young immigrants out from the United States, even though some have never lived anywhere else.
The top Senators from both parties, Chuck Schumer (D) and Mitch McConnell (R) fought for most of Thursday evening - however, no solution has yet been reached. McConnell said in an email that he would keep the Senate in session over the weekend if no deal was reached. However, without any kind of move towards compromise - there appears to be no agreement.
What happens if the government shuts down? Everything that is funded by the government will cease to operate unless a solution is found. That means government employees will not be able to go to work. Beyond that, teachers will not get their paychecks. National parks will be closed. In essence, it affects a lot of people. So when the Senate debates later today, will they keep in mind the millions of Americans impacted by their lack of ability to compromise or will the government shut down for a days, a week, a month or more and cause the country to lose millions of dollars in the meantime? We’ll find out later today.
2017 can be seen as a dark year in our contemporary history. It was a year filled with environmental catastrophes, political change and the growing problem of the Islamic State. But we’ve had enough of bad news. It’s time to spread light on the good things that shaped this year. These positive events are often less talked about or even completely ignored. In this article we will try to review some of this past year’s positive events and promising initiatives.
JANUARY 01, 2017: Dutch electric trains to run exclusively on green energy.
In the beginning of January, a spokesman of the Dutch national railway company NS declared that 100% of their electric trains were powered by wind energy, coming from windmills. The goal of the company was to reach that percentage by January 2018, but they actually achieved it a year earlier! The ENECO and NS companies declared that their 600,000 daily passengers were the first in the world to travel thanks to wind energy. They also declared that one windmill working for one hour could provide a train with enough energy to run for 120 miles. They hope to even decrease that amount of necessary energy by 2020.
MARCH 08, 2017: Iceland becomes the first country to eradicate the gender pay gap.
Iceland has now made it mandatory for companies of more than 25 employees to prove they pay their staff the same amount, regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity or nationality. Women should then enjoy the same salary as men for a same job. However, this move is part of a larger movement to completely eradicate the gender pay gap in Iceland over five years (so, by 2022). Although women were still being paid 14 to 18% less than men before this year, Iceland has long been engaged in giving equal rights to both genders and to fight inequality towards women. It has been ranked first country of the world in terms of performance on closing their overall gender gap for the ninth year in a row, by the World Economic Forum.
MAY 07, 2017: Emmanuel Macron wins the French presidential election.
This one is, of course, all relative. Not everybody wanted Macron to win, and many people are unhappy about his current domestic policies. But, the only alternative in this election was Marine Le Pen, who truly represents the most far-rights movements of Europe right now. We are aware and respect that many people voted for her and wanted her to win, however, many more people also saw her as a very dangerous threat for their country, and for Europe. Emmanuel Macron, regardless of his flaws, is a strong European-believer and is firmly engaged in the fight against climate change; Two things that Le Pen clearly opposed.
JUNE 30, 2017: Simone Veil dies at age 89.
Alright, this one is not good news, but we will try to use this moment to remember the battles and to salute the courage of this incredible woman. Simone Veil was a Holocaust survivor and one of France’s most influential states women. She survived Auschwitz concentration camp, and in 1974 became health minister of France. She fought for the legalisation of contraception and abortion. Her precursor work on the rights of women has marked the French political scene. Overcoming political and personal obstacles, she managed to pass abortion rights under the “Veil Law” name. In 1973, she gave a resounding speech on the right to voluntarily interrupt pregnancy before the French National Assembly, at the time, mostly constituted of men. Her speech is still often referred to and became one of those legendary speeches that marked their time. Simone Veil was a strong pioneering feminist and a firm pro-european believer. She served as health minister from 1974 to 1979 and again from 1993 to 1995. In 1979 she became the first president of the European Parliament and held that position until 1982.
JUNE 30: Germany legalises gay marriage. Finland and Australia as well.
After Angela Merkel dropped her long-standing opposition to same-sex marriage, the German Parliament passed the law, allowing everybody to unite under the same rights and to adopt children. Civil partnership has been legal in Germany since 2001, but full rights to get married were voted only this year. As the leader of the CDU (Christian Democrat Party), Angela Merkel has long been opposing gay rights, but she recently changed her mind, and allowed a snap vote.
Actually Finland passed the gay marriage legislation before Germany. On March 1st, the government of Finland legalized same sex marriage and the right to adopt. It was the last of the Nordic countries to legalize gay marriage. However, for now only civil marriage is allowed for all, as the traditional church wedding is still restricted to heterosexual couples.
On December 07, Australia also passed a historic bill legalizing same-sex marriage, prompting immediate celebrations in the parliament and throughout the country. After his speech on gay marriage, one MP proposed to his partner in the parliament.
JULY 06, 2017: France and the UK plan to ban petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.
France’s new environment minister, Nicolas Hulot, declared that France would stop using vehicles that depended on petrol and diesel by 2040, as part of an environmental plan. This announcement is part of a five-year plan focused on clean energy, decided under the Paris Agreement. This also came after Volvo declared they would only produce electric cars from 2019 on. Poorer households should receive an allowance to exchange their polluting vehicle for a green alternative one. Moreover, the entire country also plans to stop using coal as a source of electricity by 2022. The British government also announced in July that it would ban all petrol and diesel-fuelled cars and vans by 2040, in order to tackle air pollution. Similarly, the Netherlands and Norway have also said that they wanted to ban all combustion-powered vehicles by 2025, and Germany and India aim to do it by 2030.
AUGUST 29, 2017: Successful test for the Ocean Cleanup project.
Back in 2013, young Boyan Slat came up with the idea of creating a new technology to clean the oceans. At first, his idea seemed to be unrealistic, but he received funding and started his non-profit organization. After several successful tests in the North Sea, the Ocean Cleanup project should be fully implemented in May 2018 in the North Pacific gyre. The technology is based on a passive drifting system that absorbs all plastics contained in the ocean, thanks to the natural currents. The organization has the respectable ambition to clean up half of the Great Pacific plastic pollution in a 5-years time.
SEPTEMBER 26, 2017: Saudi Arabia announces the end of the ban on women driving.
It was the last country in the world to forbid women to drive, and on September 26, King Salman released a decree that will end the law. The order should be implemented on June 24, 2018. This event prompted great celebrations amid feminists and women who have been fighting for their right to drive for decades. The ambassador confirmed that women would now have the right to drive wherever they liked and that they would not need a man’s permission to take driving lessons. Moreover, on December 11, Saudi Arabia also lifted the ban on cinemas after 35 years in effect, causing immediate joy amongst film lovers, directors and movie industry workers. The theaters should start showing films in March 2018.
OCTOBER 06, 2017: ICAN is awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.
The threat of a nuclear war weighs upon us all. Many countries are still in possession of nuclear weapons and, lately, North Korea and the United States have threatened to use their respective arsenals. Complete annihilation of nuclear weapons seems a long way away but organizations like ICAN still continue to fight for it. Last year, the Nobel Prize committee decided to award the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize to the ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) organization for “its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons" ("The Nobel Peace Prize 2017". Nobelprize.org. 2 Jan 2018).
DECEMBER 09, 2017: Iraq declares victory over ISIS.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi declared in August that the armed forces have regained control over the ISIS occupied areas of Tal Afar and Nineveh. Although not the entire country has been liberated, most of it has been. This marks a real progress in the war against the Islamic States that has been ravaging Iraq for three years. This past year, the Iraqi military has reclaimed several cities and provinces from the terrorist group. On July 09, Mosul, the capital of the Nineveh province, was liberated. Following that, Raqqa was liberated on October 17, although completely destroyed.And, on December 09, the Prime Minister declared that the entire country had been liberated and that they had re-taken control of the Iraqi-Syrian border. Even though some terrorists are presumably still active in a small province of Iraq and that some others could still be hiding in the country, this declaration is a significant event.
DECEMBER 18, 2017: “The Silence Breakers” are TIME magazine’s person of the year.
The MeToo hashtag launched by Alyssa Milano on Twitter followed the Harvey Weinstein scandal. This year, more women than ever before started to speak out about sexual harassment. The American show business industry was the starting point of many accusations of sexual assaults. Then, millions of women shared their experiences on social media and reported their attacker. Sexual harassment is a deep problem rooted in our societies, and even if none of this is normal, it was often explained as “socially acceptable”. The MeToo campaign changed this perception. This year, the TIME magazine decided to honour all these courageous women who decided to follow the movement and to speak out.
DECEMBER 31, 2017: Ban on ivory trade in China enters into force.
China had declared earlier this year that it would progressively ban the ivory trade market throughout the country before the end of 2017. African ivory is widely pleaded in China, as it is seen as a status symbol. However, the illegal ivory trade has dramatic consequences in the African savanna. Thousands of wild elephants and rhinos are being poached each year causing severe issues in the local biodiversity. Activists see this move as a “gamechanger”, that could prevent the species from extinction. Nevertheless, now that the Chinese market is closed, Hong Kong could well become the traffickers’ new target to import illegal ivory on the legal ivory market.
SPECIAL MENTION to these people who restored our faith in humanity.
On April 11, Saffiyah Khan stepped in to defend a muslim woman who was being surrounded by EDL protesters (far-right movement) during a demonstration in Birmingham.
On November 10, Kate McClure created a GoFundMe account to help homeless man, Johnny Bobbitt, who selflessly gave her his last 20$ when she needed gas to go back home safely. She wanted to pay him back and created a funding campaign to help him get back on tracks. She has raised over 400,000$ so far!
In December 2017, a man saved a wild rabbit from the fire ravaging California.
2017 recently came to an end and we thought it was time to remember what happened in the past 12 months. It is hard to tell if 2017 was really worse than any other year, but it does seem like a lot of unfortunate events took place and that dark times repeated themselves. Marked by environmental crisis, political turmoil and terrorist attacks, this year was full of upheavals, so here is a summary of some of the most significant events of 2017.
January 01: A terrorist attack in a nightclub in Istanbul kills 39 people and wounds 70 others.
January 02: Three terrorist attacks kill 70 people in Baghdad, Iraq.
January 07: A car bombing in Azaz, Syria kills at least 48 people.
January 10: Three terrorist attacks in Afghanistan kill at least 57 people.
January 18: A terrorist attack in Gao, Mali, leaves 77 dead.
January 20: Inauguration of Donald Trump, as the 45th President of the United States.
January 21: Millions of people worldwide walked the streets and joined the Women’s March.
January 22: Chile is devastated by fires and declares a state of emergency.
January 27: Donald Trump bans travel to the US for seven mostly Muslim countries and suspends admission of refugees.
February 11: North Korea starts its ballistic missile testings and is internationally condemned.
February 26: The movie Moonlight receives the Best Picture Award at the 2017 Oscar Ceremony.
March 08: A terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, kills 49 people.
March 10: The UN warns that the world is facing one of the biggest humanitarian crisis in history with risks of large-scale starvation in Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria and South Sudan.
March 11: A double terrorist attack in Damas, Syria kills at least 74 people.
March 22: A car drove into the crowd on a bridge in Westminster, London, killing 5 people.
March 29: The United Kingdom calls on the article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the leaving process from the European Union.
April 03: A suicide bomber activated his device in a subway station in Saint-Petersbourg, killing 14 people and injuring dozens.
April 04: Two terrorist attacks in Egypt kill at least 44 people.
April 13: The United States drops the MOAB (Mother of All Bombs) on an ISIL base in Afghanistan. The MOAB is the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the entire American arsenal.
April 20: Two people die in terrorist attack in Paris, two days before first turn of presidential election.
May 07: Emmanuel Macron wins the French presidential election against Marine Le Pen and becomes youngest president of France.
May 12: Computers in more than 150 countries are hit by a large-scale ransomware cyberattack.
May 22: Terrorist bombing attack kills 22 people and injures 500 at a concert in Manchester.
May 28: Floods and landslides kill at least 151 people in Sri Lanka.
May 31: A bombing truck kills 350 people and wounds 460 more in Kabul, Afghanistan.
June 01: The United States withdraws from the Paris Climate Agreement.
June 03: A terrorist attack in London’s Borough Market, kills at least 7 and wounds 48.
June 07: Two terrorist attacks are carried simultaneously in Tehran, Iran, killing 17 civilians and wounding 43.
June 10: The 2017 World Expo is opened in Astana, Kazakhstan. Its theme is “Future Energy”.
June 12: American student Otto Warmbier returns from North Korea in coma and dies a couple of days later, after spending 17 months in jail.
June 14: A large fire burns down the Grenfell tower in London, killing at least 30 people.
June 17: Large fires ravage Portugal, killing at least 64 people. More fires started again in October killing about forty people.
July 07: The G20 starts in Hamburg, and is followed by wide street demonstrations.
July 10: Mosul is officially liberated from ISIL.
July 24: Two terrorist attacks in Afghanistan kill at least 59 people.
August 05: The UN Security Council votes in favor of new sanctions against North Korean trade.
August 12: White supremacists march in the streets and are met with counter protesters in Charlottesville, amid rare violence that caused international outrage.
August 14: A terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, kills 18 people.
August 14: 320 people die under a mudflow in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
August 17: Two terrorist attacks in Barcelona, Spain, kill 16 people and leave 100 wounded.
August 25: Beginning of systematic massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, qualified as “ethnic cleansing” by the UNHCHR.
August 25-30: Hurricane Harvey strikes the United States and causes record-breaking floods, killing at least 90 people.
September 03: North Korea carries its sixth and most powerful nuclear test
September 06-10: Hurricane Irma strikes the Caribbean and the United States causing the death of 134 people. Saint Martin island is almost completely destroyed.
September 07: Mexico is hit by strongest earthquake in a century (8.2 magnitude) in Chiapas.
September 15: London is again targeted by terrorists. A terrorist attack happens in the underground station Parsons Green. The device partially exploded and wounded around 30 people.
September 19: Mexico is struck by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, killing at least 350 people and leaving 6,000 injured (and many more homeless).
September 19-20: Hurricane Maria strikes same areas as Irma, and causes at least 94 deaths.
September 25: Kurdistan votes in referendum in favor of independence from Iraq.
October 01: Crowd in Las Vegas is victim of the deadliest shooting in US history (perpetrated by a single gunman). Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd, killing 58 people and injuring 546.
October 08: Following several accusations of sexual harassment, Harvey Weinstein is sacked by his company. After this event, thousands of women started to speak against sexual harassment and to report their attackers. On October 15, Alyssa Milano launched the #MeToo movement by posting it on Twitter.
October 12: The United States decides to withdraw from UNESCO, Israel as well.
October 14: A truck bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia, kills at least 512 people, and injures 316.
October 17: Raqqa is declared liberated from ISIL.
October 27: Catalonia declares its independence from Spain, but is not recognized.
October 31: A truck drives into the crowd in Manhattan, New York, causing the death of 8 people.
November 03: Deir ez-Zor in Syria and Al-Qa’im in Iraq are both declared liberated from ISIL.
November 06: The COP23 is organized in Bonn, Germany.
November 12: Iraq is struck by a 7.3 earthquake, leaving more than 400 dead and 7,000 injured. This quake was the deadliest this year.
November 15: Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe is arrested and resigns after 37 years in power.
November 22: The International Court of Justice condemns Ratko Mladić to life imprisonment for committing the Srebrenica genocide during the Bosnian War.
November 24: A mosque is attacked in Sinai, Egypt, killing 305 people.
December 06: Donald Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
December 06: California is struggling to contain the Thomas fire.
December 09: Iraq is declared fully liberated from ISIL.
December 12: The organization ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) receives the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.
December 14: The Walt Disney Company declares it will acquire 20th Century Fox film studios.
December 14: The US Federal Communications Commission votes to end net neutrality.
December 22: The UN Security Council votes in favor of additional sanctions on North Korea.
December 24: Guatemala, Honduras and Panama declare they will also move their Israeli embassies to Jerusalem.
December 27: A bomb explodes in a mall in Saint-Petersburg and injures several people.
This list is obviously a non-exhaustive one. Only a few of all terrorist attacks are mentioned here, as 2017 counts hundreds of them. More earthquakes and storms have happened around the globe and even more political issues rattled the international scene. 2017 made us the helpless witnesses of an ongoing nuclear cold war between the United States and North Korea. Environmental catastrophes kept flowing and the reign of terror kept striking everywhere. But fortunately, 2017 was not only about tragic stories. Even though negative events are often the only aspect of our life that is featured in media, some courageous souls are working towards making the world a better place. We’ll be posting an article in the next days, about all good things that happened this past year, watch out for it!
And you? What 2017 event marked you the most? Have you experienced one of them? Leave your comments and impressions and don’t hesitate to share.
Support and Spread the Fury Against Sexual Abuse: A talk at REvolution Books in Harlem December 9th, 2017
Revolution Books, a bookstore that is home to books that start revolutions, forces critical thinking and hosts a variety of talks. In the heart of Harlem, one of the revolution bookstore locations hosted a talk on December 5th, 2017, titled “Support and Spread the Fury of Against Sexual Abuse.”
The night began with with Fran Luck, a long-term activist and host of the Joy of Resistance on the WBAI radio, who spoke about how deeply rooted issues of sexual abuse are and how they plague every realm of society. Luck addressed the wide spectrum by discussing about undocumented female farmers who are raped, harassed, and have no voice to speak out while white collar women are only able to climb the corporate ladder by often allowing, and not filing complaints when incidents occur. Women, in every walk of life, experience objectification, and systemic sexual harassment.
Luck noted that one of the many current problems is that once women have spoken out, accused corporations find loopholes to avoid accusations. For instance, two out of every five women, who work for McDonald’s have reported being groped, and sexually violated in the workplace;however, the vast majority of these cases were dropped because McDonald’s pleaded that each entity is an individual franchise, and therefore, it beared no responsibility. This is merely one example of how women lose their voice, and are not represented or genuinely listened to. Similar cases, and the lack of female voices, has long been a historical theme — it is each micro-aggression, each job a woman leaves because of discomfort, each instance of objectification, and each time a woman is valued only for her sexual attributes, rather than her brain, her ability to multi-task, and an understanding that she has fundamental abilities to bring to the table, just like her counterpart —the man.
So why now? Why is now the time for women’s voices to be heard? Why is now the end of their silence? Women being muzzled dates back back to the foundation of the written word, it is documented or rather undocumented in the Bible. It is also documented over the more recent years - that women have laid a better path for each woman that has come after them. The ‘Me Too’ movement, that exponentially took off was largely in correlation with social media’s ability to reach hundreds of thousands of people.
Following and piggy-backing off Luck, Sansara Taylor, a journalistand member of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA, spoke. Taylor focused on the notion that while there is a huge necessity to take large key players out of their positions, a larger focus and understanding needs to be occurring on a grassroots level. This isbecause issues regarding women is so deeply pervasive and systemic. Systemic sexual harassment, like many ills that plague society, are learned and passed from generation to generation. Taylor began with telling a story of a four year-old, whom she knew and who cat-called her - merely because it was something he had routinely seen and been exposed to.
The systemic issue of sexual assault always puts the woman as the problem at the forefront. . It has created a set of conditions that perpetuate fear, rather than freedom. Historically rooted, patriarchy stems from the necessity to control - whether it is controlling reproduction or how a woman is perceived. Harassment against women comes in all forms - predation, battery, rape, groping, slavery,molestation, mansplaining and so forth. . But it can end. This can all end. Political participation and pressuring those guilty, to resign from their seats are two ways to elevate women along with supporting those women in your life and being an active voice for change. As Rupi Kaur says, ___________
Now it is time to convince every woman that they are born enough.
Have you ever considered where your books really come from? The brief answer is, the author. People like JK Rowling and Neil Gaiman are famous for the words, characters, and worlds that they’ve created. But beyond that, the longer answer is the publishing industry, and if you think about it - what do you know about women in publishing? There is much written about the popular statistics of diversity in governments around the world, but in the literary arts industry? Not so much.
VIDA is a non-profit organization that aims to create transparency for the publishing and literacy industry. They do that by publishing the VIDA Count each year to highlight gender imbalances in every kind of literary publication they can: by genre, book reviewers, books reviewed and journalistic bylines. And it’s not just about women. VIDA is committed to showing not only the lack of gender parity, but also to amplify historically-marginalized voices, including people of color, writers with disabilities and queer, trans, and gender nonconforming individuals.
So what does the VIDA Count tell us about the last year? While certain publications are doing better when counting how many women are being published versus men, only 48 percent of counted publications published as many bylines by women writers as men. That’s a decrease of 10 percent from last year.
If we look closely at a specific publication like the Atlantic - there’s an interesting point to be made. Although only 36 percent of writers were women, it’s an improvement on last year’s ten point decrease. Can that be attributed to the transparency that the VIDA Count offers? Maybe. It can be argued that by bringing attention to publications that don’t do a good job, VIDA is helping to raise awareness.
Platforms like Book Riot write extensively on choosing your books based on where you want your dollars to go. Do you support diversity? Then read diversely. Instead of picking up the latest read just because it’s on the front table at your bookstore, look at the back cover and decide if that’s really where you want to place your support.
One way that you might consider reading more diversely is taking up Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. While it’s a bit late in the year, it might be a great New Year's resolution to expand your reading repertoire for 2018. Reading diversely is a great way to put yourself in the shoes of someone who is not like yourself. If there’s anything that VIDA shows us, it’s that the publishing industry needs more diversity.
Diversity in publishing comes from one place: readers. By spending money on diverse authors and demanding books that come from many different cultures, the publishing industry would be forced to adapt its authorship to something more representative of the world that we live in today. The VIDA Count is one way for readers everywhere to measure what the situation is now, and where to start pushing for change.
Again and again, the world has witnessed leaders across its many communities work towards change. These leaders try out different techniques, strategies for growth and financial schemes to create positive and lasting change. As we’re celebrating women this month, Sub-Stances is highlighting some of the best positive women-led initiatives that are making strides from the past year.
Created in 2013, 68 Voces is a non-profit multimedia project led by Gabriela Badillo in Mexico to promote all of Mexico’s 68 native tongues. The project is now a series of animated indigenous stories all narrated in their original language. What does the project represent? The idea that “nobody can love what they do not know.” Badillo started the project in order to help build respect for the usage of all of these languages and the idea that all of them together represent the cultural wealth of Mexico. Right now, the project has completed 35 videos and is in the process of finding and creating another 33 to truly represent the cultural diversity of Mexico.
Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP)
Swayan Shikshan Prayog is an organization from Maharashtra, India that tries to empower women to farm sustainably by teaching and providing them better education, healthcare and financial support. They won the 2017 Equator Prize from the UN Development Program, a prize that celebrates organizations that protect, restore and sustainably manage nature locally. SSP is unique not only because it is women-led, but also because it uses an agroecological farming model. This model trained women to use low-impact sustainable farming, crop diversification and efficient water use. And in 2016, SSP helped over 20,000 women to act as farmers, entrepreneurs and leaders.
While the World Bank does not have a woman president, around 39 percent of supervisors at the World Bank are women. Of their technical professionals, 44 percent of them are female. The World Bank handles business and one of the biggest obstacles for women in business is funding. Only 30 percent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) around the world are owned by women. That’s a staggeringly low number. We-Fi is a Financial Intermediary Fund at the World Bank, and it aims to provide over 1 billion US dollars to women trying all across the world to start their own businesses. The World Bank’s work in attempting to promote a stronger place for women isn’t just about funding businesses. For example, in Nicaragua the World Bank helped around 230,000 women to acquire legal documents for their property (something that tradition was hindering in the past).
The Female Lead
Edwina Dunn launched the Female Lead as a non-profit to help young girls have older women role models to look up to. The organization tries to create spaces online and across diversified media in order to celebrate women making big changes throughout the world and to show younger girls what is possible for them to achieve. By showing young women what is possible, Dunn is trying to inspire them to reach for higher goals and to be successful in any field they choose. On Female Lead’s website, you can see a series of 20 top women in their 20's and women icons that are at the top of their industries.
Women Led Cities… to come
Although it’s not technically up and running yet, Women-Led Cities is an initiative started by Katrina Johnston-Zimmerman to work towards a greater level of equity in urban planning and design, to start conversations about developing feminist city policy towards greater equality for all people in cities. The city as we know it has been designed and shaped primarily by men, the Women Led Cities Initiatives is a project of THINK.urban and aims to make cities of the future women-led. We’re looking forward to seeing what they will achieve in 2017 in their pilot program in Philadelphia, PA.
Did you know that within the United States there exist sovereign nations? That’s right – they are the Native American Reservations. But just how sovereign are they? Before we delve into life on reservations, let’s cover the basics.
First, what is a reservation?
According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, “A federal Indian reservation is an area of land reserved for a tribe or tribes under treaty or other agreement with the United States, executive order, or federal statute or administrative action as permanent tribal homelands, and where the federal governmtient holds title to the land in trust on behalf of the tribe” (BIA).
How many are there?
On the BIA’s website, it states that “there are approximately 326 Indian land areas in the U.S. administered as federal Indian reservations” (BIA). However, there are over there are over 560 federally recognized tribes in the United States. (Scholar Harvard). This equates to some tribes having no land of their own and others having to share.
Where are they?
In regards to the land itself, about 56 million acres have been allotted for reservations (BIA). The BIA explains that “some reservations are the remnants of a tribe’s original land base. Others were created by the federal government for the resettling of Indian people forcibly relocated from their homelands.”
This map indicates how many and the location of the federally recognized reservations within the United States.
How do tribes become federally recognized?
The BIA explains that “most of today’s federally recognized tribes received federal recognition status through treaties, acts of Congress, presidential executive orders or other federal administrative actions, or federal court decisions” (BIA).
Now, let’s consider tribal sovereignty – a continued controversial topic. Tribal sovereignty, plainly put, is the inherent right of each tribe to govern itself (Legal Dictionary). However, sovereignty is more than that - “it is the life-blood of Indian nations. . . sovereignty is a key lever that provides American Indian communities with institutions and practices that can protect and promote their citizens’ interests and wellbeing” (Scholar Harvard).
That being said, the current policy of the United States, and has been so for forty years – "to recognize tribes’ sovereignty and to ensure its continued existence” (Scholar Harvard). However, “When it has wanted to, the United States has conscripted citizens of tribes into its armies, terminated the legal status of tribes and their property holdings, provided for law and order in communities of Native individuals, protected tribes from the exercise of sovereignty over tribal citizens by other sovereigns within its borders (i.e., states and municipalities), authorized the exercise of sovereignty over tribal citizens by other sovereigns within its borders (i.e., states and municipalities); unilaterally determined the applicability of its tax levies on individual Indians and tribes” (Scholar Harvard). So though reservations may be called sovereign, it is still up to the U.S. government to decide whether or not a tribe is federally recognized, thereby determining a tribe’s right to sovereignty.
And even if a tribe is federally recognized, then what?
Many reservations have been “compared to the developing world” (World Atlas). Common health problems found amongst reservations include: “malnutrition, diabetes, high infant mortality, and alcoholism” (World Atlas). All of which are “driven by the rampant poverty and lack of economic opportunities available on tribal lands” (World Atlas). This is not a trivial matter - 22% of the country’s 5.2 million Native Americans live on tribal lands and 28.2% are living below the federal poverty line (Native Partnership). Depending on the reservation, job scarcity leads to “four to eight of ten adults on reservations being unemployed”(Native Partnership). This leads to many adults seeking jobs off of the reservation, leaving the grandparents to raise the children (Native Partnership). There is also a housing crisis and consequent, homelessness due to lack of not just homes, but inadequate ones according to the US Commission on Civil Rights (Native Partnership).
So, where does this leave Native Americans today?
The answer varies, depending on the reservation, the tribe, and the individual. However, it must be highlighted that while some tribes hold sovereignty, not all do. And for those that do hold federally recognized sovereignty, there still exist societal walls that confine their livelihood.
*Disclaimer: The author is currently working at a charter school in the south Bronx of New York City. Although she attended a well-funded public school and strongly believes in public education, she believes that charter schools offer a positive alternative for parents in low-income neighborhoods who are seeking opportunities and a better future for their children. This piece is not intended to argue which educational system is better,rather it is intended to spark conversation regarding the necessity that education be of equal quality from neighborhood to neighborhood, state to state, and child to child.
Across the United States, if you are born in a zip code that has undergone extreme redlining, has access to poor public transportation, and is comprised of primarily minorities, it is likely your access to a great education, is also limited.
Public schools, funded directly by the tax dollars of the neighborhoods’ residents, are better in more affluent communities. The discrepancy in tax based funds favors the status of education in wealthy areas —by pulling in better educated teachers, providing better access to resources, and creating a network of support that is always there for students. All of this fuels student development, and ultimately, the scores students reach on state tests.
There is a lot of controversy around state tests. State tests are very structured and are created on the state level in order to collect big data. The controversy is primarily derived from the fact that state-tests are aligned with state-funding. Poorly funded schools are at-risk to lose federal and state funding based on their scores because they lack the resources to adequately prepare students. Despite appearing as an effective evaluation of schools, state tests may counter intuitively punish the schools that need the most support. When students do not have equal access to the same information or resources to achieve success, and school funding is based on their performance, a cycle develops that keeps underfunded schools from improving their performance.
State tests are aligned with common core initiatives; meaning students must be able to achieve a set of standards by each milestone. However, these standards can only be met if test taking strategies are being taught and the schools have access to textbooks that are released and published by the state. According to Atlantic journalist Meredith Broussard in her article, “Why Poor Schools Can’t Win at Standardized Testing,” poor schools cannot afford to buy these textbooks, many of which contain the answers that will likely be on state tests The test-makers and the textbook producers are concentrated in three companies: CTB McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson. Consequently, if one has access to these up-to-date textbooks and curriculum aligned to their test-taking strategies, the student will have overall higher scores on state-testing. However if a student does not have access to these textbooks and their curriculum, he or she will be at a significant disadvantage to meet common core standards. This inaccessibility is a compounding factor amongst the walls that poor neighborhoods and schools are already up against.
Across many parts of the United States, charter schools have been the answer to these problems. For instance, in New York City, charter schools are popping up every single year in some of the city’s most underserved and underrepresented areas. Charter schools are funded similarly to public schools. Their funding is based on the amount of pupils enrolled and their average daily attendance (ADA). However, the schools must abide by set guidelines generated and approved by a board of directors and the state charter laws. Charter schools can be funded and supported by outside sources if they adhere to the guidelines. Further, charter schools also have more flexibility when it comes to creating a culture within their school since it is based on a lottery system and annual data standards.
In New York, charter schools have led to extensive rates of student success and also have helped close racial performance gaps. The test scores prove this. Students who attended charter schools in both Harlem and the Bronx, historically neighborhoods with large populations of minorities, do better than their public school counterparts. For instance, students at charter schools passed state-tests at rates 60% or higher than public schools. Not only that, but the students also passed with higher rates than white, affluent, communities within New York City.
The generic comments disputing these statistics include charter schools cherry-picking gifted students that will drive positive statistics, where public institutions are unable to weed students out. In public schools, there is opportunity to decline a student access to education, and therefore public schools are representative of a wider range of data points. In many cases, students, who cannot conform to the structured charter school setting, end up leaving or being pushed through the system to leave. The Washington Post debunked many myths about charter schools in this article, “Separating Fact from Fiction in 21 claims about Charter Schools,” and found that contrary to popular belief, charter schools are funded at lower levels than public schools. Furthermore, this article noted that although they are based on a lottery system that accepts students based on parents who enter the lottery, the reason for high success rates is largely aligned with the rigor and school environment. Students must to meet certain reading levels and complete various math standards at the end of each year. If they fail, they will be retained. The driving reason for drop out rates amongst charter schools is based on grade repetition. This results in students re-entering public schools.
Education is the way out of poverty and it is also the door to opportunity.While, the long-term solution is to recreate the whole education system, that is easier said than done. Charter schools offer a solution to an unequal education system that doesn’t perpetuate invisible walls and combats Institutionalized racism.In many ways it is the answer right now for a broken system. With educational goals based and invested in people rather than standardized tests charter schools show that when it comes to education the zip code should not matter, the people should.
Books on Education in the United states
When Puerto Rico comes to mind, most people will now certainly associate the small island with Hurricane Maria. News organizations have been covering Puerto Rico as the most obvious illustration of where FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) funds are failing to make any impact. The majority of the island is without power and continues to lack access to clean water. But another longer term crisis has loomed over the island since 1967, namely: What is the status of Puerto Rico?
Puerto Rico neither has the right to a vote in Congress, nor to vote in presidential elections. The island is technically a U.S. colony, with more than 3 million citizens that often are unsure of where their status lies. While any Puerto Rican can simply move to the U.S. mainland and be guaranteed the full rights of a U.S/ citizen, any who choose to stay on the island have fewer rights than their counterparts. We spoke to a Puerto Rican who prefers to remain anonymous. She had this to say:
“I know a lot of people who want Puerto Rico to be independent because they want to conserve the Puerto Rican identity but in crises like the most recent hurricane, it seems like statehood would have its benefits. I think there would have been more immediate and efficient help for the island if it had been a state. In my opinion, our current president does not seem to be giving much thought or care much about Puerto Rico. At least 80% of the island remains without power. If Puerto Rico had been a state, it probably would have received helped quicker and with less hesitation.”
Since 1967, five separate referendums have been held on the issue of US statehood. The most recent one was held in June 2017, where over 97 percent voted in favor of statehood. However, the turnout for that vote was 23 percent and this was due to a boycott by one major party. Despite this odd voting status quo, Puerto Rican citizens don’t actually have a say on whether or not they become a state. Like our Puerto Rican source says, “but if it doesn’t have any consequences or move things along, then why have it in the first place?” Unfortunately both the House of Representatives and the Senate would have to approve statehood legislation. The last time this happened was in 1959 with the states, Alaska and Hawaii.
Puerto Rico was originally taken over by the United States in the Spanish American War of 1898, and its residents were given citizenship in 1917. This year marks the 100th year of that legislation. However, while Puerto Ricans may pay taxes, the island still has no electoral votes, no representative votes and no actual physical representation in the U.S. federal government. Puerto Rico is also facing a debt crisis that affects its health care and economic welfare. In total, Puerto Rico has around $70 billion in debt. The U.S. Congress is currently considering legislation that may set a precedent for the federal government to impose a federal control board of directors on Puerto Rico to address the debt. What does that mean? It means that the U.S. wishes to take more control over Puerto Rico without giving it the benefits of a state. More practically, this crisis means that many Puerto Ricans choose to immigrate to the mainland for better education, jobs and more opportunities to set up businesses. In fact, between 2005 and 2015, Puerto Rico has faced a net loss of around 446,000 people. One of those is the Puerto Rican who we are speaking with. She moved to Massachusetts to find “better education, find a new perspective, a change of scenery and be a bit more independent.”
Luckily if Puerto Ricans choose to immigrate, anyone born in Puerto Rico after 1940 has acquired U.S. citizenship. This is a direct result of being born on Puerto Rican soil as mentioned in the the Nationality Act of 1940. However, the Puerto Rican territory remains unincorporated to the United States as a whole. What is Puerto Rico then? Separate and Unequal. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that all states must guarantee the same rights, privileges, and protections to all citizens. As long as Puerto Rico remains in its colony-like limbo status, its citizens cannot lay claim to that privilege of a constitutional citizenship status. That means that there are those who live as U.S. citizens without full citizenship rights,such as the right to vote and the right to representation.
The issue of statehood ultimately has to do with identity. Do you identify more as Puerto Rican or American? It’s an intensely personal issue. When asked, our Puerto Rican source simply ended by asking us a question in return, “What difference does it make? Aren’t you American if you’re Puerto Rican?”
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