Rachel's Democracy & Health News #891
Thursday, January 25, 2007
From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News #891 ..........[This story printer-friendly]
January 25, 2007
PART 2: REGULATORY FAILURE IN THE GREAT LAKES
[Rachel's introduction: Scientists studying the Great Lakes have recently learned that chemicals are taking a far greater toll on humans and wildlife than previously realized. But the corporate polluters are organizing to maintain business as usual.]
By Peter Montague
Last week we began describing a new report from the International Joint Commission (IJC) that says regulation of toxic chemicals has failed in the Great Lakes, and a precautionary approach is needed. The IJC is the bi-national (U.S.-Canada) governmental body responsible for water quality in the Great Lakes. Here we continue describing the IJC's report (6 Mbyte PDF), especially chapter 5 ("Human Health"). [In our text, numbers inside parentheses refer to pages in the IJC report. Words inside square brackets represent our clarifications or comments.]
1. Harm to Great Lakes wildlife is very widespread and fundamental
A 1991 basinwide assessment of the health of herring gulls nesting in 11 colonies representing all five Great Lakes, relative to two reference colonies outside of the basin, revealed widespread DNA damage and chronic... inflammation of the liver and... inflammation of the kidney. (pg. 117)
"Great Lakes gulls suffered from hypothyroidism [insufficient thyroid hormone] and had enlarged hyperplastic thyroid glands [meaning thyroid glands with growths or nodules]. These toxipathic responses were most frequently associated with PCBs.
"Studies of pre-fledgling herring gulls in 1994-1999 in lakes Huron, Erie, and Ontario revealed marked suppression of T-cell-mediated immune function and altered antibody production.
"Studies of herring gulls in colonies in the Detroit River, western Lake Erie and Lake Ontario 2001-2004 revealed that biochemical, thyroid, and immune effects still persist. In addition, there were effects on corticosterone secretion and, at some sites, the plasma of males contained vitellogenin, suggesting they were exposed to biologically significant concentrations of estrogens. Similar biochemical effects were seen in male snapping turtles, and thyroid effects were seen in snapping turtles and fish. Vitellogenin was also found in the plasma of male fish and snapping turtles. (pg. 117)
Comment: insufficient thyroid hormone is a serious problem for wildlife, as it is for humans. Thyroid hormone controls an animal's metabolism, and is crucial in early development of the nervous system. The immune system of course protects against infectious diseases and cancers. The presence of vitellogenin in male fish and turtles indicates that the males are being turned into females by exposure to the waters of the Great Lakes. Obviously, these are all signs of widespread serious trouble.
2. Living near a contaminated site can cause human illness and death
In the early 1990s, the IJC identified 43 "areas of concern" (AOCs) in the Great Lakes. These are harbors or rivers or discharge points that are severely contaminated. These areas were supposed to be cleaned up rapidly during the 1990s, but that did not happen.
Now we learn that simply living near one of these areas can make people sick -- even if they eat no fish from the Great Lakes:
"In 1998, Health Canada [roughly the Canadian equivalent of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] reported on retrospective epidemiological evidence for each of the 17 Canadian AOCs. They used mortality, hospital admissions/separations, and cancer data for 1986-1992 to calculate morbidity, mortality, and incidence rates. The data suggested that there was increased morbidity and mortality for a variety of health effects associated with residence in these AOCs relative to the Province of Ontario as a whole. Also, residence in a particular location was found to adversely affect health independent of whether Great Lakes fish is consumed." (pg. 120)
"The Health Canada studies for the various Canadian AOCs found increased incidence of genital-tract disorders, thyroid disease, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma." (pg. 120)
"These findings led investigators at the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany to test a series of hypotheses based on the assumption that these health end points are associated with place of residence. Using a variety of available health data collected in the 1990s, they tested these hypotheses for individuals living near the nearly 900 contaminated sites identified in New York state, including AOCs.
"They found convincing evidence that a number of chronic and acute diseases occur more commonly in patients who reside near hazardous waste sites and AOCs containing priority pollutants, especially persistent organic pollutants such as PCBs. The elevated incidence is not accounted for by socio-economic status or lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet, or exercise. These findings imply that inhalation is a major route of exposure." (pg. 120)
Got that? Inhalation is a MAJOR route of exposure. This is new information.
The IJC report goes on: "Effects documented include adverse impacts on reproduction and development, metabolism, and endocrine and immune functions. In addition, studies suggest that increased risks of heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes are associated with residence near AOCs and hazardous waste sites.
"A recently published study has also shown a strong association between ambient air pollution and respiratory hospitalization in the Windsor [Ontario] AOC.
"Inhalation can be a major route of exposure. The health of large numbers of people in many communities in the Great Lakes basin may be compromised by multi-media exposure to the contaminants in their environment," the IJC report concludes. (pg. 120)
Comment: For a second time the IJC report says inhalation can be a MAJOR route of exposure.
3. Basic Toxicity Information is Missing for Many Chemicals
"Derek Muir described his search strategy to identify potential chemicals of concern among the approximately 100,000 chemicals in commerce, approximately 70,000 of which are on the Toxic Substances Control Act list created in 1976, and 5,200 that exceed a production volume of 1,000 tonnes/year [2.2 million pounds per year] according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Of these 5,200 chemicals, 43 percent had no toxicity data available as of 2004." (pg. 123)
Furthermore, "... less than 10 percent of high-volume industrial chemicals have been evaluated regarding their bioaccumulation, environmental fate, and toxicity." (pg. 125)
4. Mixtures of Chemicals Have Potent Effects
"It is known that the combined effects of a mixture of dioxin-like compounds are additive when adjusted for potency.... Recently, investigators discovered that the same holds true for estrogenic chemicals [meaning industrial chemicals that mimic the female sex hormone, estrogen]. Crofton et al. (2005) dosed young rats with a mixture of two dioxins, four dibenzofurans and twelve PCBs. The mixture was formulated to reflect typical concentrations measured in breast milk, and in fish and other foods. None of the concentrations in any of the doses exceeded the LOELs [lowest observed effect levels] for the constituent chemicals. The mixture reduced serum thyroxine [thyroid hormone] levels at concentrations that were at least an order of magnitude [a factor of 10] below their LOELs. The effects on thyroxine were cumulative (additive) at low doses and synergistic at higher doses. (pg. 124)
This is extraordinarily important information. The IJC is saying that the researcher (Kevin M. Crofton) was able to diminish thyroid hormone levels in the blood of laboratory animals by exposing them to very lox levels of a combination of chemicals. The individual chemicals were administered at levels at least 10 times as low as the amount that is known to cause effects in exposed animals, and the levels of exposures were selected to mimic levels that a human baby would receive from breast milk. The COMBINED exposure caused thyroid hormone levels to decline in the exposed animals. In human babies, sufficient thyroid hormone is essential for early brain development.
The IJC report sums up the new information that has come to light in the last few years:
1. Legacy chemicals are not declining rapidly, if at all, and they are still present at levels that make Great lakes fish unsafe to eat:
"In this biennial cycle [in the last two years] it became clear that our understanding of health hazards associated with 'legacy' contaminants has increased much more rapidly than their levels are currently decreasing. PCB and mercury levels in fish are many times greater than values protective of human health. PCB concentrations in fillets of some large lake trout from Lake Michigan exceed by 40 fold the level which would allow unrestricted consumption." (pg. 128)
2. Fish consumption advisories don't work:
"Despite consumption advisories, many individuals are exposed unnecessarily, and often unconsciously, to toxic contaminants through their diet." (pg. 128)
3. People are being exposed and harmed by breathing the air:
"We have also learned that air transport is an important pathway of exposure and that living near highly contaminated areas increases one's exposure." (pg. 128)
4. A new set of toxic chemicals is now being measured in the Lakes:
"In addition, we have become aware of 'emerging' chemicals that were not previously detected." (pg. 128)
5. Exposure to Mixtures of Chemicals is Harmful:
"There is also a growing awareness of a larger range of developmental and functional health impacts associated with exposure to mixtures of chemicals, including the persistent 'legacy' contaminants and the 'emerging' chemicals." (pg. 128) [The term 'functional health impacts' includes things like kids struggling to keep up in school, or, in the case of fish at least, males taking on some of the characteristics of females.]
"Many 'emerging' chemicals affect the same target organs and/or systems as the 'legacy' chemicals and will contribute to the cumulative toxicity." (pg. 128)
6. A single chemical can have many effects on many parts of the body
"It is now clear that a single chemical can have an impact on multiple-organ systems via several exposure pathways and a number of modes of action, and that those impacts can be expressed in multiple ways." (pg. 128) [Comment: In the good old days (the entire 20th century) a chemical was accused of simply causing cancer or harming the liver or contributing to heart disease, but modern science now reveals that this old view was hopelessly inadequate for describing the how a single chemical (not to mention mixtures) can affect many different bodily systems in many different ways. In a sense, our knowledge has grown rapidly but what has grown most rapidly is our understanding of how little we actually understand about the complex interactions between chemicals, health and behavior.]
The Great Lakes are extraordinarily important because they contain 20% of the world's fresh surface water and 80% of the fresh surface water in North America. That we have contaminated the lakes so thoroughly is an astonishing feat of industrial hubris and stupidity.
The authors of the IJC report understand that only the people who live around the Great Lakes can make the necessary changes to save themselves from an unfolding health disaster. The report asks,
"What evidence of human-health effects will be sufficient to create the political will to clean up the areas that continue to make major contributions to system contamination?" (pg. 128)
And, the report says, "If sufficient resources to support remediation and required protection efforts are to be committed, Great Lakes citizens must understand the risks and demand accountability under the [Great Lakes Water Quality] Agreement for long-term progress and implementation strategies that are protective of human and wildlife The Great Lakes are extraordinarily important because they contain 20% of the world's fresh surface water and 80% of the fresh surface water in North America. That we have contaminated the lakes so thoroughly is an astonishing feat of industrial hubris and stupidity. health and 20% of the world's fresh surface water." (pg. 128)
So there you have it. Basically, to save the Great Lakes from continued decline, citizens have to develop enough clout to overwhelm the political influence of corporate polluters, to force government to adopt a precautionary approach to protect the Lakes.
Last December, citizen groups from around the Great lakes published a report outlining what needs to be done. They agree with the IJC report, that chemical regulation has failed and the proper remedy is to implement a precautionary approach.
However, the Council of Great Lakes Industries, which represents chemical companies and coal-burning utilities, has staked out its position, claiming that even the weak current system is burdensome, oppressive and nightmarish for industrial polluters. The Council says it "fears a more aggressive water quality pact will bring costly new regulations and stifle the regional economy." Furthermore, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement has already "created a bureaucracy and a governance nightmare that is very difficult to maneuver around."
We are wondering if some communities around the Great Lakes might want to consider a new strategy, directly challenging the "rights" of corporations to continue destroying this national treasure.
From: Alliance for Justice ...............................[This story printer-friendly]
January 25, 2007
PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION TO RESTORE HABEAS CORPUS
[Rachel's introduction: Three blockbuster events radically altered our system of governance during 2006. In the first, Congress and Cheney-Bush legalized torture. In the second, the U.S. military stepped up domestic surveillance of U.S. citizens. And in the third Congress abolished the 700-year-old legal procedure called habeas corpus. The U.S. now has all the trappings of a police state though for the most part it is not being run as one -- at least not yet.]
Last September, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), which restricted habeas corpus rights, allowing the government to continue holding prisoners at Guantanamo indefinitely with no access to a fair hearing in court.
Indefinite imprisonment without a fair trial or hearing is unconstitutional and fundamentally un-American. Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) have authored legislation to restore the right of habeas corpus.
The impact of the habeas corpus restrictions in the new Military Commission Act go far beyond the walls of Guantanamo prison. The law allows the government to arrest any non-citizen -- including permanent residents in the United States -- and hold them indefinitely without charge and with no access to an attorney or a fair hearing.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
There are three important steps you can take:
1. Add your name to the national on-line petition supporting restoration of full habeas corpus rights -- you can read the petition online or below.
To add your name, included below or online, email us at: email@example.com with your name and organization.
2. Forward this email or our web page to your friends and encourage them to sign the petition.
Our web page for the campaign to restore habeas corpus is at: http://ga1.org/campaign/restore_habeas_corpus_2007/explanation
3. Send a letter to your Senators and House members supporting the Specter-Leahy-Dodd legislation to restore habeas corpus rights by going to: http://ga1.org/campaign/restore_habeas_corpus_2007
The text of the "restore habeas corpus" petition is BELOW and online at http://www.afj.org/restorehabeascorpus.pdf
PETITION TO RESTORE HABEAS CORPUS
We call on the United States Congress to enact legislation that will restore our Nation's commitment to law and freedom.
In the fall of 2006, Congress passed a law governing military commissions, which included a provision that stripped certain detainees of their habeas corpus rights. Habeas corpus has been the bedrock of our justice system for centuries. The Supreme Court asserted that it "is the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action." Without habeas rights, detainees are denied a fair hearing in federal court to challenge the lawfulness of their detention. The government is left free to imprison people indefinitely without charge or trial or other fair hearing, no matter how inhumane the conditions of confinement or the treatment of the detainees. Such a policy is not only unconstitutional, it is also fundamentally un-American and undermines our national character.
It is time to join the scores of lawyers, law deans and professors, politicians, religious leaders and military officials who have condemned the denial of habeas corpus rights to detainees and have called for a restoration of our constitutional values. It is incumbent upon Congress to ensure that our laws reflect who we are as a society, that we are a people committed to accountability and basic fairness. In the face of adversity, adhering to our values does not make us less secure, but rather strengthens us as a nation.
Protect freedom, fairness and due process of law. Restore habeas corpus.
[YOUR NAME HERE]
Visit this web address to tell your friends about this.
If you received this message from a friend, you can sign up for Alliance for Justice at: http://ga1.org/afj/join.html?r=D7s7L4713 mmKE
From: Orion ..............................................[This story printer-friendly]
January 25, 2007
THE LEADERSHIP IMPERATIVE
[Rachel's introduction: In place of a philosophy of progress, Oren Lyons emphasizes fidelity to a set of spiritual and natural laws that have guided successful human social organization throughout history.]
By Barry Lopez
Oren Lyons, seventy-six, is a wisdom carrier, one of the bearers of a variety of human tradition that can't easily be reduced to a couple of sentences. One reason he -- and the tradition for which he is a spokesperson -- isn't more widely known is that he doesn't actively seek forums from which to speak. If someone asks him, however, about the principles behind the particular Native American tradition of which he has, since 1967, been an appointed caretaker, he is glad to respond. He chooses his words carefully, and occasionally, these days, there is a hint of indignation in his voice, as if time were short and people generally willful in their distraction.
In an era of self-promotion, Oren Lyons represents the antithesis of celebrity. When he converses about serious issues, no insistent ego comes to the fore, no desire to be seen as an important or wise person. His voice is but one in a long series, as he sees it, and the wisdom belongs not to him but to the tradition for which he speaks. His approach to problems is unusual in modern social commentary because his observations are not compelled by any overriding sense of the importance of the human present. In place of a philosophy of progress, he emphasizes fidelity to a set of spiritual and natural laws that have guided successful human social organization throughout history.
The appeal of his particular ethics in the search for solutions to contemporary environmental and social problems can become readily apparent. It is importantly, however, not a wisdom anchored in beliefs about human perfection. It's grounded in the recognition and acceptance of human responsibility where all forms of life are concerned.
Oren is a Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan among the Onondaga people of western New York. He sits on the Council of Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee, or the Six Nations as they are sometimes known. (In addition to the Onondaga, these would be the Seneca, Cayuga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora.) The people of this "Iroquois Confederacy" share a philosophy of life given to them a thousand years ago by a spiritual being they call the Peace Maker. (He was named so partly because his instructions and warnings ended a period of warfare among these tribes, but his teachings about peace are understood to refer principally to a state of mind necessary for good living and good governance.)
When the Peace Maker came to the Haudenosaunee, he instructed them in a system of self-governing that was democratic in nature. (Benjamin Franklin and others, in fact, borrowed freely from this part of Haudenosaunee oral tradition and practice in formulating the principles of government upon which the United States was founded.) He emphasized the importance of diversity in human society to ensure sustainability and rejuvenation. And he urged a general tradition of thanksgiving.
The Peace Maker is sometimes called simply "the Messenger," someone sent by the Creator. The clan mothers among the Haudenosaunee, along with sitting chiefs such as Oren, are regarded as "runners," people responsible for keeping the precepts handed to them by the Peace Maker regenerating through time. As a council chief, Oren is said to be "sitting for the welfare of the people" and to be engaged in sustaining "the power of the good mind" in discussions with others on the council, all of whom are exchanging thoughts about the everyday application of the wisdom given them by the Peace Maker.
Oren has spoken often, recently, about a lack of will among world leaders, a failure to challenge the economic forces tearing apart human communities the world over, and the Earth itself. His response to the question of what society should do to protect life, however, is rarely prescriptive. Frequently what he says is, "It's up to each generation. There are no guarantees."
The Peace Maker's advice included an important warning for the chiefs and clan mothers. Some of his instruction, he said, would apply to life-threatening situations that would develop before the Haudenosaunee were able to fully grasp their malevolent nature. While the insights needed to manage such trouble would emerge among council members, the people might initially adamantly reject the council's advice. As decision makers, he said, the chiefs and clan mothers would have to be prepared to absorb this abuse. Oren recounts these words of the Messenger: "You must be tolerant [of harsh critics] and must not respond in kind, but must understand [their fear], and be prepared to absorb all of that, because it is not all going to be coming from your enemies. It is going to be coming from your friends and families. This you can expect."
In public, Oren Lyons carries himself with the unaffected manner of elders in many of the world's indigenous traditions -- unpretentious, understated. His physical presence in a room, however, radiates authority. In conversations, you quickly sense that he takes life more seriously than most. He is an articulate and forceful speaker when it comes to discussing the worldwide movement toward civil society, a movement that would marginalize the sort of governance and commerce that today threaten life everywhere.
Oren Lyons, long a professor of American Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo, is the publisher of Daybreak, a national Native American magazine. Before being appointed to the Onondaga Council by the clan mothers in 1969, he was successfully pursuing a career in commercial art in New York City. An All-American lacrosse goalie while a student at Syracuse University, he was later elected to the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in both Canada and the United States, and named honorary chairman of the Iroquois Nationals lacrosse team. He is the recipient of many national and international awards, and for more than three decades has been a defining presence in international indigenous rights and sovereignty issues.
Barry Lopez: Why is sovereignty such a crucial issue for Native American people today?
Oren Lyons: Well, sovereignty is probably one of the most hackneyed words that is used in conjunction with Indians. What is it, and why is it so important? It's a definition of political abilities and it's a definition of borders and boundaries. It encapsulates the idea of nationhood. It refers to authority and power -- ultimate and final authority.
It's such a discussion among native peoples in North America, I would say, because of our abilities at the time of "discovery" -- and I use that term under protest, as if to say that before the advent of the white man in North America nothing existed. Where does that idea come from? Well, it comes from the ultimate authority of the pope at the time. I'm talking 1492. The Roman Catholic Church was the world power. Now it's my understanding that in the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, there is no mention of the Western Hemisphere whatsoever -- not the least hint. How could they miss a whole hemisphere?
So here we were in our own hemisphere, developing our own ideas, our own thoughts, and our own worldview. There were great civilizations here at the time. In 1492, Haudenosaunee -- which is better known as the Iroquois by the French, and Six Nations by the English -- already had several hundred years of democracy, organized democracy. We had a constitution here based on peace, based on equity and justice, based on unity and health. This was ongoing.
As far as I know, all the other Indian nations functioned more or less the same way. Their leadership was chosen by the people. Leaders were fundamentally servants to the people. And in our confederation, there was no place for an army. We didn't have a concept of a standing army, and we had no police. Nor was there a concept of jails, but there were of course fine perceptions of right and wrong, and rules and law. I would say that in most Indian nations, because they had inhabited one place for so long and were a people for so long, the rules and laws were embedded in the genes of the people more or less, in the minds of the people certainly, but not written. Plenty of law, almost on everything, but unspoken. Unspoken unless transgressed. There was always reaction to transgression.
Across the water, in Europe, our brother was engulfed in great crusades. If you look at their histories and what is in their museums, no matter where you are -- whether it's Germany or France or England or Holland or whatever nation -- in their great halls you'll see paintings of battles. Always. That must have been a terrible way of life. Now I speak of Europe because they are the ones that came here. And when they came here, the pope said, If there are no Christians on these lands, then we'll declare the lands terra nullius -- empty lands -- regardless of peoples there. And the question arose almost immediately, Were the aboriginal people indeed people? That was the big discussion. Why? Well, you can say a lot of things, but the issue is land -- always has been and always will be.
The ideas of land tenure and ownership were brought here. We didn't think that you could buy and sell land. In fact, the ideas of buying and selling were concepts we didn't have. We laughed when they told us they wanted to buy land. And we said, Well, how can you buy land? You might just as well buy air, or buy water. But we don't laugh anymore, because that is precisely what has happened. Today, when you fly across this country and you look down and you see all those squares and circles, that's land bought and sold. Boundaries made. They did it. The whole country.
We didn't accept that, but nevertheless it was imposed. They said, Let's make us a law here; we'll call it the law of discovery. The first Christian nation that discovers this land will be able to secure it and the other Christian nations will respect that. What does that do to the original people, whose land of course they are talking about? We just weren't included. They established a process that eliminated the aboriginal people from title to their own land. They set the rules at the time and we were not subjects, we were objects, and we have been up to this point. That's why indigenous people are not included in the Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. We are still objects in common law.
In today's courts, in New York and Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, they talk about the pre-emption rights of the law of discovery. Today. Land claims are being denied on the basis of the law of discovery. It has not gone away whatsoever. You really have to get the case law and look at it, because they not only say that we don't have land tenure, they say that we have only the right of occupancy.
And they don't have to pay us anything, because we're part of the flora and fauna of North America.
No wonder Indians wonder about what sovereignty is.
BL: Native elders are often credited with being informed about the environment, or knowledgeable about spiritual issues, but rarely credited with expertise when it comes to governance. Why aren't native elders sought out for their wisdom about a good way to govern, a good way to serve people?
OL: Well, to put it simply, our worldview, our perspective, and our process of governance is contrary to private property. Private property is a concept that flies in the face of our understanding of life, and we would say of the reality of life. Private property is a conception, a human conception, which amounts to personal greed.
And then there's the spiritual side that you mention. You can't see the spiritual side... well, you get glimpses of it. Any hunter will tell you, you see it in the eyes of the deer, that bright spark, that life, that light in his eyes, and when you make your kill, it's gone. Where did it go? It's the same light that's in the eyes of children, or in the eyes of old men, old women. There's a life in there, there's a spirit in there, and when you die, when your body gives up the ghost, as Christians say, spirit leaves. We believe that.
We believe that everything we see is made by a Creator. Indeed that's what we call the ultimate power. Shongwaiyadisaih. The maker of all life. The giver of life. All powerful. We see the Creation -- everything -- as what the giver of life has produced here. And if we believe that, which we do, then we must respect it. It's a spiritual Creation, and it demands that kind of respect. So when I see people, they are manifestations of the Creator's work, and I must respect them. It doesn't matter what color they are -- anything alive.
A thousand years ago, when the Peace Maker brought to us the Great Law of Peace, Gayanahshagowa, he set as our symbol for the confederation of Haudenosaunee a great tree, and he said, "This is going to be the symbol of your work and your law: a great white pine, four white roots of truth that reach in the four directions of the world. And those people who have no place to go will follow the root to its source and come under the protection of the Great Law of Peace and the great long leaves of the great tree." And then he admonished the leaders and the people, and he said, "Never challenge the spiritual law. Never challenge it because you cannot prevail." That's a direct instruction to leadership.
BL: It seems to me that the federal government in the United States is reluctant to invite Indian people to the table because, as you've just said, you can't have effective leadership without spiritual law, and you can't talk about good governance without environmental awareness. Yet we need -- all of us need -- the counsel of minds that successfully addressed questions of social justice long before Western culture, arguably, complicated them with the notion of industrial progress.
OL: After the Peace Maker gathered five warring nations -- the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Cayugas, the Senecas, and the Onondagas -- and after great efforts and great cohesive work, the power of the unity of the good minds brought together this confederacy based on peace. And after he had taken the leaders and sat them under this great tree on the shoreline of Onondaga Lake and instructed them on the process of governance, on the principles of governance, on the importance of identity and the importance of rule and law, he said, "Now that we've planted this great tree, in your hands now I place all life. Protection of all life is in your hands now," and when he said all life, he meant literally, all life.
And it's an instruction that we carry today. We feel responsible for animals, we feel responsible for trees, and responsible for fish, responsible for water. We feel responsible for land and all of the insects and everything that's there. And when he spoke of the four white roots reaching in the four directions, I think he was talking to all people. Not just Haudenosaunee. This is an instruction for all people.
But after all of that, a woman said to him, "Well then," she said, "how long will this last?" And he answered, "That's up to you." So it's completely up to us if we want this Creation to continue, and if we want to be involved in it, a part of this whole recycling, this whole regeneration of life, and we want to be celebrating it, and we want to be enjoying it, and we want to be preserving it, carrying it on, protecting it for future generations.
In one of his many instructions he said, "Counselors, leaders," he said, "now that we have raised you here, now that you are who you are," he said, "when you counsel for the welfare of the people, then think not of yourself, nor of your family, nor even your generation." He said, "Make your decisions on behalf of the seventh generation coming. You who see far into the future, that is your responsibility: to look out for those generations that are helpless, that are completely at our mercy. We must protect them." And that's great counsel in today's times, if we want the seventh generation to be here, and to have what we have.
BL: What do you think is the great impediment to the implementation of that wisdom?
OL: Human ego is probably the biggest impediment -- the amazing ability of any human to perceive themselves as almighty powerful, no matter what. That is a big problem. We were instructed long before the Peace Maker to be respectful, to have ceremonies, to carry out thanksgivings for everything. We have an enormous amount of ceremony and thanksgiving still going on in North America. Indian nations across the country are still carrying on those ceremonies in their languages and through their dances. We're trying.
And we're told, as long as there is one to speak and one to listen, one to sing and one to dance, the fight is on. So that is hope. To not give up. To try, and to use reason. Peace Maker said, "I'm going to throw your weapons of war into this hole." He uprooted that great tree and instructed all the men to bring their weapons of war and to cast them into this hole. That was the first disarmament. And he said, "I'm not going to leave you unprotected and helpless." And he gave us the great tobacco plant. And he said, "This will be your medium to speak to me when you need to." And he gave us a very special plant, which we still use, still speak to him with.
We believe. And I think as long as we're doing that, there is a chance.
BL: When you meet with people -- Desmond Tutu for example, Gorbachev, other people who've sought your counsel and the wisdom of the Six Nations -- do you sense a possibility that these cultures that are driven by issues of private property, social control, and capitalism can be guided by your example of how to conduct a civilization without warfare?
OL: Indian people have as much dissension among themselves as anybody. I think that our understanding is simply that dissension begins with each individual. You don't need two people to have that tension; you have it within yourself. As a human being, you have a spiritual center, and if you go too far to the right or too far to the left, you're out of balance. And that occurs every day.
In the creation story that we have, we talk about the twin brothers, one good, one evil, and we talk about the battles that they went through, enveloping the Earth itself. It's a story to the people, to explain that within each of us we have these tensions, and that on any given day any one of us can be the world's worst enemy.
And that's why you have councils, and that's why you have rule, and that's why you have community and law, because that is part of humanity. And there is no ultimate authority. But of course over time people have found standards of moral right, and I think that's where the real law lies. It lies in morality. A balance.
The only thing that you can do is have custom in usage, and a good example. That's why grandpas and grandmas are so important. They are the transition people. They move the children into the next generation. Peace Maker said, "Make your decisions on behalf of seven generations." He's telling you to look ahead, to not think about yourself. If you can stop thinking about yourself and begin thinking about responsibility, everything is going to get better. Immediately everything will change. But that is not the makeup of the human mind. There's always the evil twin. And there's always the good twin. It's a daily battle.
BL: My own problem at the moment is a frustration that my fate, the fate of the people I love, and the fate of my family are in the hands of men who see no reason to listen to counsel from outside the circumscribed world of their own knowledge. I live in a country in which people take pride in never having had any kind of experience with other cultures, who believe that they have perfected the ways of life to such a degree that forcing them down the throats of other people is an act of benevolence. They don't want people who speak for the integration of spiritual and material life at the table because these people are disruptive when it comes to issues of consumerism, economic expansion, and international cooperation. To me, this is fundamentally not only unjust, but stupid.
OL: I see it that way too. We're being placed in an untenable position by greed and force and authority. If I was sitting on the moon looking back on North America, on the democracy that was here when Haudenosaunee was meeting and the Peace Maker was bringing these ideas to us, I would have seen this light, this bright light. I'd see it grow. And then in 1776, when the Continental Congress came as close to Indian nations as they ever would in their style of thinking, that light was growing again. The idea of democracy and the idea of peace were there.
But it began to dim almost immediately, as they began to take away peoples' rights in the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution institutionalized the idea that only men with money or property could vote. They said it was okay to have a slave or two or three or ten or twenty. The light began to dim. Haudenosaunee chiefs shook their heads and they said, "You're courting trouble." And then it really got dim in 1863, and 4 and 5 and 7 and 8, when they had a great civil war in this country over the issues of power, authority, slavery. That was a very intense war. That was brother against brother.
And so it goes on, this idea of private property, this idea of accruement of wealth. And now we have corporate states, corporations that have the status of states -- independent and sovereign, and fealty to no one, no moral law at all. President Bush has said, "Let the market dictate our direction." Now if that isn't about as stupid as you can get. What he said was, let the greed of the people dictate the direction of the Earth. If that's the basis of a country, then it's really lost what you would call a primary direction for survival.
This is really the danger today -- this empty, senseless lack of leadership. But it doesn't mean that responsibility isn't in the hands of the people. To come down to the nut of the whole thing, it's the people's responsibility to do something about it. Leadership was never meant to take care of anybody. Leadership was meant to guide people; they take care of themselves. People should be storming the offices of all these pharmaceutical companies that are stealing money from them. They should be dragging these leaders, these CEOs, out into the streets and they should be challenging them. They're not doing that. They're just worried about how they're going to pay more.
It's the abdication of responsibility by the people. What was it that they said? By the people and for the people? That was the Peace Maker's instruction: Of, by, and for the people. You choose your own leaders. You put 'em up, and you take 'em down. But you, the people, are responsible. You're responsible for your life; you're responsible for everything.
People haven't been here all that long as a species on the Earth. We haven't been here all that long and our tenure is in question right now. The question arises, Do we have the wisdom, do we have the discipline, do we have the moral rule, the moral law, are we mature enough to care for what is our responsibility? That question can only be answered by the people.
This interview grew out of an Orion Society event called Artful Advocacy, which was hosted and funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, with additional support from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Compton Foundation.
Copyright 2007 The Orion Society
From: Center for Health and the Global Environment .......[This story printer-friendly]
January 17, 2007
AN URGENT CALL TO ACTION TO PROTECT CREATION
[Rachel's introduction: Scientists and evangelicals unite to protect creation.]
Scientific and evangelical leaders recently met to search for common ground in the protection of the creation. We happily discovered far more concordance than any of us had expected, quickly moving beyond dialogue to a shared sense of moral purpose.
Important initiatives were already underway on both sides, and when compared they were found to be broadly overlapping. We clearly share a moral passion and sense of vocation to save the imperiled living world before our damages to it remake it as another kind of planet. We agree not only that reckless human activity has imperiled the Earth -- especially the unsustainable and short-sighted lifestyles and public policies of our own nation -- but also that we share a profound moral obligation to work together to call our nation, and other nations, to the kind of dramatic change urgently required in our day. We pledge our joint commitment to this effort in the unique moment now upon us.
This meeting was convened by the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School and the National Association of Evangelicals. It was envisioned as a first exploratory conference, based on a shared concern for the creation, to be held among people who were in some ways quite different in their worldviews. It now seems to us to be the beginning point of a major shared effort among scientists and evangelicals to protect life on Earth and the fragile life support systems that sustain it, drawing on the unique intellectual, spiritual, and moral contributions that each community can bring.
Our Shared Concern
We agree that our home, the Earth, which comes to us as that inexpressibly beautiful and mysterious gift that sustains our very lives, is seriously imperiled by human behavior.
The harm is seen throughout the natural world, including a cascading set of problems such as climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, and species extinctions, as well as the spread of human infectious diseases, and other accelerating threats to the health of people and the well-being of societies.
Each particular problem could be enumerated, but here it is enough to say that we are gradually destroying the sustaining community of life on which all living things on Earth depend. The costs of this destruction are already manifesting themselves around the world in profound and painful ways. The cost to humanity is already significant and may soon become incalculable.
Being irreversible, many of these changes would affect all generations to come. We believe that the protection of life on Earth is a profound moral imperative. It addresses without discrimination the interests of all humanity as well as the value of the non-human world. It requires a new moral awakening to a compelling demand, clearly articulated in Scripture and supported by science, that we must steward the natural world in order to preserve for ourselves and future generations a beautiful, rich, and healthful environment.
For many of us, this is a religious obligation, rooted in our sense of gratitude for Creation and reverence for its Creator. One fundamental motivation that we share is concern for the poorest of the poor, well over a billion people, who have little chance to improve their lives in devastated and often war-ravaged environments.
At the same time, the natural environments in which they live, and where so much of Earth's biodiversity barely hangs on, cannot survive the press of destitute people without other resources and with nowhere else to go.
We declare that every sector of our nation's leadership-religious, scientific, business, political, and educational-must act now to work toward the fundamental change in values, lifestyles, and public policies required to address these worsening problems before it is too late.
There is no excuse for further delays. Business as usual cannot continue yet one more day. We pledge to work together at every level to lead our nation toward a responsible care for creation, and we call with one voice to our scientific and evangelical colleagues, and to all others, to join us in these efforts.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 17, 2007
CONTACTS: Sharon Castillo, Phyllis Cuttino 202.289.5900
Evangelical, Scientific Leaders Launch Effort to Protect Earth
Unprecedented collaboration aims to instill sense of urgency on elected officials, advance sound environmental policies
Washington, D.C. -- In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, evangelical and scientific leaders announced today a collaborative effort to protect the environment. Speaking at a news conference in Washington, DC, a dozen leaders of the effort shared concerns about human-caused threats to the creation -- including climate change, habitat destruction, pollution, species extinction, the spread of human infectious diseases, and other dangers to the well-being of societies.
The coalition released an "Urgent Call to Action" statement signed by 28 evangelical and scientific leaders. The statement -- sent to President George W. Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, bipartisan congressional leaders, and national evangelical and scientific organizations -- urges "fundamental change in values, lifestyles, and public policies required to address these worsening problems before it is too late. Business as usual cannot continue yet one more day." The group pledged to "work together toward a responsible care for creation and call with one voice" to the religious, scientific, business, political and educational arenas to join them in this historic initiative.
"There is no such thing as a Republican or Democrat, a liberal or conservative, a religious or secular environment. We all breathe the same air and drink the same water. Scientists and evangelicals share a deep moral commitment to preserve this precious gift we have all been given," said Dr. Eric Chivian, Nobel laureate and Director of the Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment. "Great scientists are people of imagination. So are people of great faith. We dare to imagine a world in which science and religion cooperate, minimizing our differences about how Creation got started, to work together to reverse its degradation. We will not allow it to be progressively destroyed by human folly," added Rev. Richard Cizik, Vice President for Government Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Stressing that their effort is just beginning, coalition members spoke about some of the immediate next steps they will be taking, including holding meetings with Congressional leaders from both parties to inform them of this unprecedented effort and encourage their attention to environmental issues. They also plan to hold a Summit on the Creation and will develop outreach tools, such as an environmental bible and environmental curricula.
"If current deterioration of the environment by human activity continues unabated, best estimates are that half of Earth's surviving species of plants and animals will be extinguished or critically endangered by the end of the century. The price for future generations will be paid in economic opportunity, environmental security, and spiritual fulfillment. The saving of the living environment is therefore an issue appropriately addressed jointly by science and religion," said Pulitzer-award winning author Dr. Edward O. Wilson.
One of the imperatives of the group will be to advance the dialogue and influence policy in regards to global warming. "In order to avoid clear and substantial dangers... it will be necessary to substantially reduce CO2 emissions during the next few decades, and perhaps by 80 percent or more before the end of the century, " said Dr. James Hansen, the leading climate change scientist in the United States.
The coalition vowed to expand their collaboration and encourage action from all sectors of society. "We are glad to be partnering with our friends in the scientific community. They have the facts we need to present to our congregations; we have the numbers of activists that will work through churches, government, and the business community to make a significant impact," said Dr. Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor of the mega Northland Church in Orlando, Florida.
The unique collaboration, 28-members strong and growing, was spearheaded by leaders from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School and the National Association of Evangelicals. During a retreat held last November 30 to December 2nd in Thomasville, Georgia, the group agreed that science proves that the natural world is imperiled by human behaviors and policies, particularly by the unsustainable burning of fossil fuels and degradation of living systems. They decided to embark on a continuing collaboration and authored the "Urgent Call to Action" statement.
From: Associated Press ....................................[This story printer-friendly]
January 20, 2007
STUDY LINKS CHILD CANCER, AIR POLLUTION
[Rachel's introduction: A study finds that children living within 2 miles of the Houston [Tex.] Ship Channel had a 56 percent higher risk of getting acute lymphocytic leukemia than children living more than 10 miles from the channel.]
HOUSTON -- A new study links the risk of cancer in children with hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).
About The Study Executive Summary Full Study PDF
Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs) are a class of 189 chemicals which are known or suspected to have adverse effects on health, according to the Houston [Texas] Health Department. The Health Department reported that there are no national standards regulating acceptable levels of these compounds in the environment.
The study found that cancer risks are greater for children who live close to the Houston Ship Channel and adjacent industrial plants.
The 18-month study examined Harris County, Texas, cancer cases from 1995 to 2003 and emissions including 1,3-butadiene and benzene. It's the first study to identify a possible link between cancer risks and toxic air pollution in Harris County.
The study was conducted by the University of Texas School of Public Health. It was funded by the Houston Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control.
The study found that children living within 2 miles of the Ship Channel had a 56 percent higher risk of getting acute lymphocytic leukemia than children living more than 10 miles from the channel.
It also found that compared with children living in areas with the lowest estimated 1,3-butadiene levels, children living in areas with the highest levels had a 40 percent, 38 percent and 153 percent increased risk of developing any type of leukemia, acute lymphocytic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia, respectively.
Researchers said that at the suggestion of several environmental scientists, they repeated their analyses for childhood leukemia using the United States Environmental Protective Agency's 1999 National Air Toxics Assessment modeled ambient 1,3-butadiene and benzene levels. In general, they saw a similar pattern.
Among adults, neither proximity to the Houston Ship Channel, nor levels of benzene or 1,3-butadiene was consistently associated with leukemia or lymphoma risk, the study said.
Mayor Bill White said the results will help spur city efforts to clean up the air.
A press release said researchers at the Health Department identified all cancer cases, including adult and childhood cases, diagnosed and reported to the Texas Cancer Registry from 1995-2003. They then used existing air monitoring data collected from 1992-2003 by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to estimate ambient census tract levels to benzene and 1,3-butadiene.
They also estimated the risk of developing leukemia and lymphoma associated with residential proximity to the Houston Ship Channel. They assigned cancer cases to a particular census tract based on their residence at diagnosis as reported to the Texas Cancer Registry. Researchers calculated cancer rates separately for adult and childhood cancers for each census tract. They also said they accounted for gender, age, socio-economic status, and ethnicity.
Distributed by Internet Broadcasting Systems, Inc. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From: New York Times (pg. G1) ............................[This story printer-friendly]
January 25, 2007
CAN POLYESTER SAVE THE WORLD?
[Rachel's introduction: How about renting trendy clothes instead of buying them?]
By Elisabeth Rosenthal
Woking, England -- Josephine Copeland and her 20-year-old daughter, Jo Jo, visited Primark at the Peacock Center mall here, in the London suburbs, to buy presents for friends, but ended up loaded with clothes for themselves: boots, a cardigan, a festive blouse, and a long silver coat with faux fur trim, which cost $24 but looks like a million bucks. "If it falls apart, you just toss it away!" said Jo Jo, proudly wearing her purchase.
Environmentally, that is more and more of a problem.
With rainbow piles of sweaters and T-shirts that often cost less than a sandwich, stores like Primark are leaders in the quick-growing "fast fashion" industry, selling cheap garments that can be used and discarded without a second thought. Consumers, especially teenagers, love the concept, pioneered also by stores like H&M internationally and by Old Navy and Target in the United States, since it allows them to shift styles with speed on a low budget.
But clothes -- and fast clothes in particular -- are a large and worsening source of the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, because of how they are both produced and cared for, concludes a new report from researchers at Cambridge University titled "Well Dressed?"
The global textile industry must become eco-conscious, the report concludes. It explores how to develop a more "sustainable clothing" industry -- a seeming oxymoron in a world where fashions change every few months.
"Hmmm," said Sally Neild, 44, dressed in casual chic, in jeans and boots, as she pondered such alien concepts, shopping bags in hand. "People now think a lot about green travel and green food. But I think we are a long way from there in terms of clothes. People are mad about those stores."
It is hard to imagine how customers who rush after trends, or the stores that serve them, will respond to the report's suggestions: that people lease clothes and return them at the end of a month or a season, so the garments can be lent again to someone else -- like library books -- and that they buy more expensive and durable clothing that can be worn for years.
In terms of care, the report highlights the benefits of synthetic fabrics that require less hot water to wash and less ironing. It suggests that consumers air-dry clothes and throw away their tumble dryers, which require huge amounts of energy.
But some big retailers are starting to explore their options. "Our research shows that customers are getting very concerned about environmental issues, and we don't want to get caught between the eyes," said Mike Barry, head of corporate social responsibility at Marks & Spencer, one of Britain's largest retailers, which helped pay for the Cambridge study. "It's a trend that we know won't go away after a season, like a poncho."
Customers "will ask 'what are you doing?' " Mr. Barry said, noting that 70 percent of Britons shop at his chain. "So we're doing a lot of thinking about what a sustainable clothing industry could look like in five years."
Consumers spend more than $1 trillion a year on clothing and textiles, an estimated one-third of that in Western Europe, another third in North America, and about a quarter in Asia. In many places, cheap, readily disposable clothes have displaced hand-me-downs as the mainstay of dressing.
"My mother had the same wardrobe her entire life," Ms. Neild said. "For my daughter, styles change every six months and you need to keep up."
As a result, women's clothing sales in Britain rose by 21 percent between 2001 and 2005 alone to about $47.6 billion, spurred by lower prices, according to the Cambridge report.
And while many people have grown accustomed to recycling cans, bottles and newspapers, used clothes are generally thrown away. "In a wealthy society, clothing and textiles are bought as much for fashion as for function," the report says, and that means that clothes are replaced "before the end of their natural life."
Dr. Julian Allwood, who led a team of environmental researchers in conducting the report, noted in an interview that it is now easier for British consumers to toss unwanted clothes than to take them to a recycling center, and easier to throw clothes into the hamper for a quick machine wash and dry than to sponge off stains.
He hopes his report will educate shoppers about the costs to the environment, so that they change their behavior.
There are many examples of how changing consumer priorities have forced even the most staid retailers to alter the way they do business.
Last year Marks & Spencer -- Britain's mainstay for products like underwear and shortbread -- decided to go organic in its food business; it now sells only free-trade coffee and teas, for example. Many executives regarded the shift as a foolish and risky decision, but the store found that sales jumped 12 percent. The store learned a lesson that executives think will apply to clothes.
"Morally, we know more sustainable clothing is the right thing to do, but we are more and more convinced that commercially it is the right thing as well," Mr. Barry said. In fact, marketing the "green" value of clothing, even if costs a bit more, may provide an advantage over competitors.
Part of the problem is that neither manufacturers nor customers understand much about how and when clothing purchases degrade the environment, since these can occur anywhere from the harvest of cotton or the manufacture of synthetic fibers to how -- and how often -- the garment must be washed.
"We've got fantastic standards when it comes to food, but it is all brand-new when it comes to clothes," Mr. Barry admitted. "We have a lot to learn."
In their efforts to buy green, customers tend to focus on packaging and chemicals, issues that do not factor in with clothing. Likewise, they purchase "natural" fibers like cotton, believing they are good for the environment.
But that is not always the case: while so-called organic cotton is exemplary in the way it avoids pesticides, cotton garments squander energy because they must be washed frequently at high temperatures, and generally require tumble-drying and ironing. Sixty percent of the carbon emissions generated by a simple cotton T-shirt comes from the 25 washes and machine dryings it will require, the Cambridge study found.
A polyester blouse, by contrast, takes more energy to make, since synthetic fabric comes from materials like wood and oil. But upkeep is far more fuel-efficient, since polyester cleans more easily and dries faster.
Over a lifetime, a polyester blouse uses less energy than a cotton T- shirt.
One way to change the balance would be to develop technology to treat cotton so that it did not absorb odors so readily.
Also, Dr. Allwood said that "reducing washing temperature has a huge impact," speaking of a significant drop from about 122 Fahrenheit to 105. Even better, he said, would be to drop washing temperature below normal body temperatures, but that would require changes in washing machines and detergents.
The report suggests that retailers could begin to lease clothes for a season (just as wedding stores rent tuxedos) or buy back old clothes from customers at a discount, for recycling.
But experiments along these lines have faltered. A decade ago, Hanna Andersson, an eco-conscious American clothing company, tried offering mail-order customers 20 percent credit toward new purchases if they sent back their used garments. This "hannadowns" program was canceled after two years.
People hope "we'll find new sources of energy, so we won't really have to change much," Dr. Allwood said. "But that is extremely unlikely."
To cut back the use of carbons and make fashion truly sustainable, shoppers will have "to own less, to have less stuff," Dr. Allwood said. "And that is a very hard sell."
And so Marks & Spencer is thinking about whether its customers will be willing to change their buying habits, to pay more for less- fashionable but "sustainable" garments. After all, consumers have shown a willingness to pay more for clothes not made in sweatshops, and some are unwilling to buy diamonds because of forced labor in African mines.
On a recent day outside Marks & Spencer on Guildford High Street, where everyone was loaded with shopping bags, Audrey Mammana, who is 45, said she was not "a throw-away person" and would be happy to lease high-end clothing for a season. She would also be willing to repair old clothes to extend their use, although fewer shops perform this task.
But, she added: "If you cut out tumble-drying, I think you'd lose me. I couldn't do without that."
From: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) [This story printer-friendly]
January 22, 2007
GRAND CANYON CONTROVERSY CLARIFICATION
[Rachel's introduction: In Rachel's News #889 we carried a story about the National Park Service violating its own rules by selling a book that claims the Grand Canyon was created during Noah's flood, ignoring the geological record. Here's more information on that story.]
Many PEER supporters and bloggers world-wide have commented on the controversy surrounding the age of the Grand Canyon generated by a recent PEER press release. We would like to apologize for the fact that our December 28, 2006 release, "How Old is the Grand Canyon? Park Service Won't Say," was not as clear as it should have been. If we had it to do over, it would have been written differently. While we aim to call attention to issues that we believe are important, it is not our intention to promote misinformation. To set the record straight, we would like to offer the following clarification and update.
Once we became aware that the press release was being misinterpreted, we took a couple steps to amend this error:
1) PEER revised the original release on our website, deleting the problematic first sentence. ["Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees."]
Although the information was not included in the release, that sentence was based on the fact that since 2004 (until this recent controversy erupted) we heard from reporters that the superintendent's office at GCNP had answered media questions about the age of the canyon with either a "no comment" or by referring the reporter to Headquarters.
2) We distributed a second press release that laid out clearly the Park Service's position on the age of the Grand Canyon, and posted the NPS official statement on our website.
It's significant to note that the public controversy surrounding our release finally stimulated the National Park Service, for the first time, to go on the record saying it did not endorse the content of Tom Vail's book, Grand Canyon: A Different View. As with all other statements on this issue, of course, it came out of HQ, and not the park.
Our intention in the original release was simply to point out that the National Park Service is
a) still selling the creationist book in violation of their own policies and despite the protests of the Service's own geologists and the park superintendent
b) stonewalling on the long-promised official review of their decision to sell the book
c) refusing to issue formal guidance to park staff on how to address questions from visitors about creationism and the official NPS position in light of the approval of a book espousing this view.
As a side note, we spoke today with someone who bought the book out of curiosity, and was dismayed to find that it included promotional material about the author's church and for his river tour company. He suggested that this offered further reasons it shouldn't be sold in the NPS bookstore.
Again, our apologies to anyone who felt offended or misinformed, and we hope that this clarifies the matter. Thank you for following PEER's work, and taking the time to become engaged in the issue. Public discourse and healthy skepticism are crucial in arriving at a more complete understanding of the truth.
Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment & Health News) highlights the connections between issues that are often considered separately or not at all.
The natural world is deteriorating and human health is declining because those who make the important decisions aren't the ones who bear the brunt. Our purpose is to connect the dots between human health, the destruction of nature, the decline of community, the rise of economic insecurity and inequalities, growing stress among workers and families, and the crippling legacies of patriarchy, intolerance, and racial injustice that allow us to be divided and therefore ruled by the few.
In a democracy, there are no more fundamental questions than, "Who gets to decide?" And, "How DO the few control the many, and what might be done about it?"
Rachel's Democracy and Health News is published as often as necessary to provide readers with up-to-date coverage of the subject.
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