Posts tagged Social Justice

Things about health care

I can’t really say it better than this. Plus, I can’t draw better than this either, so why try:

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Things about gender… and my anger

There’s a recent news story regarding the South African female runner who is being questioned about her sex due to the fact that she, well… looks like a boy.  And runs fast.

No, really.

It’s like being on the playground as a having someone call a little 4 year old girl a boy because she has short hair and likes to play with trucks.

NBC sports reports (emphasis mine):

Semenya dominated her rivals to win the 800 on Wednesday despite revelations that surfaced earlier in the day that she was undergoing a gender test. Her dramatic improvement in the 800 and 1,500, muscular build and deep voice sparked speculation about her gender.

“She was always rough and played with the boys. She liked soccer and she wore pants to school. She never wore a dress. It was only in Grade 11 that I realized she’s a girl,” Eric Modiba, head of the Nthema Secondary School, told the Beeld newspaper.

No.  No, really.

Seriously?!?

I get that there are a tiny number of incidents in sports where a male will pretend to be female in order to gain advantage.  I know it has happened.  But this is fucking ridiculous.

On top of the fact that this is an allegation based completely on rumors, therein lays a larger problem with this whole mess in that  you cannot. test. for. gender.

YOU CANNOT TEST FOR GENDER.

Gender is a societal construct. Yes, I’m aware that makes me sound like a complete flaming liberal (I have no idea why), but you cannot biologically test a person for gender.  No matter how many swabs you collect or doctors you see, you cannot test for gender.

Even Miriam Webster agrees with me, as it defines gender as:
b : the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with one sex

You cannot test for that.  YOU CANNOT TEST FOR GENDER.

So if you’re going to be ridiculous about this and put this person through international scrutiny… at least get the fucking term right. You are not. testing. for. gender.  Have I repeated myself enough yet?!

You are testing for her biological sex.

Which leads me to the fact that the topic of intersex athletes requires a whole separate rant which I do not have the energy for.

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Things that need to happen soon

After a meeting today with out insurance agent, we discovered our company’s health care costs are about to increase… by 40%.

FORTY. PERCENT.

Hello???  HEALTH CARE REFORM, WHERE AAAARRREEE YOOOUUU??

I can say, as a representative of a small business, my company is desperate for a public option.  C’mon, Congress, you know you want to give us legislation that’s not a piece of shit. Just stop the whole ‘heads up your asses’ thing and do it.

Additionally, according to a Newsweek article online now:

In the study of 173 countries, we stood with Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea as the only countries providing no paid maternity leave. Of the 169 countries that guarantee paid maternity leave, 98 of them provide 14 or more weeks. Among wealthy countries—except ours—parents are entitled to as much as 47 weeks of paid family leave.

Sad face emoticons don’t do my disappointment justice when I realize that one of the most advanced, powerful, and wealthy countries in the world is on par with Swaziland for anything. No disrespect meant to Swaziland, but… it’s a country with nearly 70% of it’s population below the poverty line.

Come. the. fuck. on. America.

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Things that inspire me

My sister’s friend Matt started this Jesuit middle school at the age of twenty-six, based on the nativity model.

The faculty is made up of people who basically all have masters and four PhDs, and who choose to work insane hours 11 months a year for wages half of what they could be making at a public school.

This year, Chicago Jesuit Academy graduated their first class.  And this video gives me chills. And makes me want to cry. And figure out a way to save the world.  Because realizing Matt did all of this at twenty-six makes me feel like a twentysomething slacker.

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Plastics make it possible… for us to smother ourselves?

Those who know me are aware that at my current place of employment, one of my tasks is writing and designing the newsletters that are emailed/faxed/printed every month/bimonth/quarter about goings-on in the environmental industry.  And those who know me even further are aware that I have things I choose to be incredibly anal and OCD-esque regarding.  For instance, while I choose to be anal towards the proper use of the word “whom” and other lame rules of grammar, I will probably never learn to correctly spell the word “definitely” on the first shot (yes, I typed it ‘definately’ there originally). *

One of things I’ve decided to embrace OCD with is doing the research for these newsletter articles.  The point that matters to me is namely that somebody reads these articles, and therefore I could potentially be the source of someone saying, “You know, I read somewhere that…” See that?? “Somewhere” could be within my reach of manipulation!  LOOK AT MY POWER!!!  Therefore, in my mind that means I better make sure this shit is as accurate as possible.

Fast forward to me doing a sidebar on why you should email us so that we can GIVE YOU FREE SHIT WITH OUR LOGO ON IT SO YOU REMEMBER TO USE OUR COMPANY. Specifically, this month, we’d like to give you reusable grocery bags, which is pretty bad assed and exciting. Instead of doing a lame article on how Maui has banned plastic bags in 2010 again, I decided I’d throw some paper v. plastic stats in there, since clients seem to enjoy clicking in to studies and stats like that.

And after spending far more hours on this than I should have, I have discovered this:  We’re going to fucking smother ourselves in garbage.

I mean, I figured that both paper and plastic bags are pretty wasteful, and – no surprise – they are.  But what’s shocking is just how insanely wasteful they are, and how we are burying ourselves in garbage.

The amount of energy it takes to create one bag (higher for paper), much less RECYCLE the bags (again, much higher required for paper) is already jaw dropping when you multiple it by the billions of bags used every. single. day.  Plus, the EPA estimates only 5% of plastic bags and 12% of paper bags were recycled in 2005.  Newspaper is recycled in the US an estimated 80% of the time.

Top that depressing news off with the fact the plastics can usually only be recycled into a lower grade plastic; therefore plastic bags, which are normally made of #1 and #2 plastics can only be recycled (“downcycled”) into plastics of lower grade than itself.  And this can usually only happen once.  My limited science readability tells me that this is because the bonds in plastic break while being recycled and cannot be reformed in the same way again. Yes, it’s way more complicated than that, but I refuse to attempt to exposit any further for fear of looking like a complete ass regurgitating sciencey knowledge.

Oh, and if biodegradable plastics accidentally get mixed in, the recycled plastic product is way less valuable. Plus regulations on food/soda/water bottles and containers are that they must be made of virgin resin materials, so nothing that ever touches food is going to be made from recycled materials.

So, therefore if

plastic bags : bad :: paper must : good,

right?

Well, actually, paper bags are arguably worse.  Not only, as reported before, does creating and recycling paper bags require significant amounts of energy to produce due to its materials and thickness,but they also require thousands of gallons more over plastic bags, and strip the land of natural resources in order to make sturdy, high-quality paper.  But the one good thing paper bags really have going for them is their reputation as ‘natural’ products that will decompose significantly faster than plastics in landfills.  So that’s gotta be something, right?

Mais, au contraire.

There are several studies and reports, including one study quoted by the EPA, which state that paper bags, due both to their thickness as well as the lack of light, air, and moisture in landfills, won’t actually decompose any faster than plastic bags in landfills.  Now, I take this knowing the study quoted here was commissioned by the french equivalent of Walmart (Carrefour), so they have a vested interest in finding plastic bags, which are cheap to buy/produce/transport, as the environmental winner, but their full conclusion was more along the lines of “Nothing Ever Goes Away; We’re Royally Fucked.” (Okay, maybe I read between the lines of the conclusion.)

On top of that all, if you compost paper bags (which I have done), apparently it releases twice the amount of CO2 into the atmosphere as non-composting paper does.

But flipside the issues again and there’s the negative greenhouse issues of burning plastic bags. And the fact that plastics in landfills, no matter how much water, light, and air given, will never biodegrade completely, because small fibers always remain.

And then you just think of the fact that 95% of this shit just goes here anyways:

Massive Garbage Dumps That Go On Forever

Massive Garbage Dumps That Go On Forever

And then you realize that even if we stopped using plastic completely TODAY (which, for multifaceted and obvious legal, political and economic reasons, could never happen), this still wouldn’t go away for thousands and thousands of years.  And yet, we continue to consume upwards of 500,000,000,000 plastic bags Each. Effing. Year.

Sometimes researching shit like blows my mind and completely overwhelms me on its vastness scale.  Also because I don’t know if we’ll ever be ready as a global society to change our habits unilaterally fast enough to actually make a difference.

Le sigh, for the world.

* Fun sidenote: While I adore grammar, I am somewhat of a terrible speller.  I’ve improved greatly over the years, and I spell basic words properly most of the time (angry face to those who spell your/you’re either a) incorrectly, or b) ubiquitously as “ur”), even if I have to constantly pause and think “I before E, except after C….”  Despite this, in 4th grade, while I scored in the 99th percentile for all of my other standardized CAT** tests… er, in spelling? I scored in the 74th. Oops?

** Other fun sidenote: CAT = California Acheivement Test.  Where did I grow up?  Illinois.  Yeah. Riddle me stumped.

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Science, HO!

I may or may not have inferred previously that I enjoy science.  I think I recall something along the lines of raving about space exploration and a giant ‘projector’ for the Chicago planetarium.  Plus, you know, we never really learned anything from science in the past 10,000 years or anything.  Excuse me while I go give some penicillin to my cow over in my irrigated field while calling my sister on my cell phone to tell her of the great new fact I learned on the internet.

I recently took the GREs and, as irony would have it, my ‘position’ essay was about whether or not government should have a say in regulating scientific research.  I believe my answer was along the lines of “FuckNOmothafuckahs, that ain’t the government’s job, YO.”  Naturally, I expanded upon that and whose job it should be, and surprisingly I scored higher than one would think after using such such fucking asshat profanities and slang.

Anyways, as it would appear, Obama agrees with me:

President Barack Obama will lift his predecessor’s restriction on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research on Monday and will give the National Institutes of Health four months to come up with new rules on the issue, officials said on Sunday.

Obama will not lay out guidelines himself but will let the NIH decide when it is ethical and legal to pay for embryonic stem cell research, science adviser Dr. Harold Varmus said.

Researchers and advocates have been invited to a White House ceremony at which Obama will make the announcement, said Melody Barnes, director of Obama’s domestic policy council. He will also sign a pledge to “restore scientific integrity in governmental decision making,” Barnes said.

And goes on to my favorite line:

“Hallelujah! This marks the end of a long and repressive chapter in scientific history. It’s the stem cell ’emancipation proclamation’,” said Dr. Robert Lanza of Advanced Cell Technology in Massachusetts.

I often wonder: When we look back in history and great scientists and innovators, do we ever wish they had been given fewer resources so that we might be less knowledgeable than we are today?  Because countries so very often are frowned upon for advancements in science, yes?  And shouldn’t it be the scientific community, and not the government (the majority of which, last I checked, are actually not scientists) who says when science might be crossing the line?

In the mean time, a big fuckYAY for science today.

ETA: I love the smell of Enlightenment in the morning.

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Environmental research can be scary

See, this is why I shouldn’t be allowed to work at an environmental company, because then I get to sit around and do ‘research’ on the new developments in the field, which basically allows me a lot of time on the internet.

Occasionally I stumble across interesting or hilarious findings, such as the Mafia racketeering wind power.

And then I find things like this, which leave me half super-horrified half, and laughing hysterically:

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