The EPA has a proposed new standard for fossil fuel-burning power plants, which will be constructed in the future, that will help ensure a lower carbon future and hopefully spur innovation in the electric industry. They are accepting public comments through June 25th. There are a number of organizations that will help you provide comments directly to the EPA, such as the National Council of Churches or the Union of Concerned Scientists. My letter, with extra citations, is below.
Results tagged “social justice”
Public Comment on Proposed EPA Standards for New Fossil-Fuel Power Plants
Advancement of Women: a Baha'i Perspective by Janet A. Khan and Peter J. Khan
In this scholarly work, Janet and Peter Khan present the theological grounding, social context, historical action, and modern implementation of the concept of "equality between the sexes" as found in the Bahá'í Faith. Well researched and clearly written, the book has much to offer to those who, from any background, wish to better understand the underpinnings and the implications of this critical spiritual principle.
Darfur Is Calling, Who's Answering? And Don't Forget Pakistan.
Save Darfur Coalition just called me. And thanked me for being so pleasant on the phone. How sad. Its not like it was a cold call — I've supported them in the past and thus have a reasonable expectation that they'll try to contact me in the future. Why are they calling? Because apparently the conditions in Darfur are deteriorating. Do I believe the woman on the phone? Well, the Times reports that Violence Said to Be Rising in Sudan’s Darfur Region (yesterday). At this point Sudan is as much a powder-keg as ever, with secession of the south likely next year, renewed civil war equally likely. The Save Darfur Coalition is helping spread awareness of, and global pressure on, the Sudanese government's grave abuses (killings, rapes, and other human rights violations). My money will not do much to stop the situation. But public pressure does make a difference, and I'll provide a small amount to help keep that pressure steady.
Meanwhile, Pakistan is also calling, though not literally. The flooding has been absolutely terrible, and relief agencies expect that hunger and isolation will be extreme in the coming months. Time to step up and show the love again for Pakistan. Unicef, World Food Programm, International Committee of the Red Cross, Oxfam, etc. — let's all give one of them a cold call, only to give rather than receive.
Teaching Children, and Myself, About Service and Truthfulness
I've done my alloted time now: taught a Bahá'í children's class at a St. Paul public housing community center two weeks running, with around 10 children each time. None of whom are Bahá'ís, and neither are their parents. We learned about service and truthfulness. Well, I learned, and I hope they did too. And they taught me about karma. Perhaps I'll go back and help out some more.
Populism Rarely Escapes Racism
Jimmy Carter says opposition to Obama is based in racial attitudes. New York Times columnists debate: David Brooks says no, it is based in populism. Bob Herbert says yes it is racism. Charles Blow responds that, if nothing else, it should be obvious to us all that race is still a problem in America. While Brooks's assessment about populism is probably accurate, he is clearly overlooking the consistent racial character of populist movements, and a number of obviously racist attacks on Obama (see Herbert; also pointed out by E.J. Dione on NPR Friday afternoon). Moving beyond the politics of it, what does all of this signify about American culture, and about the continuing struggle for people of color to be afforded an equal opportunity?
The Emotionally- and Spiritually-Deprived Creep
I've been thinking about how horribly wrong this is, that a man can rant and rave angrily, hatefully about women, walk into a gym and kill and injure several, and the news treats it as "just another" mass killing. This is not "just another". Violence is always wrong. When it is perpetrated by singling out a particular group, and that pattern is repeated over and over again, it is also indicative of a deep social ill. In this case, its name is misogyny.
Iran Press Watch calls today "Baha'i Rights Day"
I've just stumbled across an incredible, moving, soul-stirring animated short about the persecution of the Baha'is of Iran and Egypt: http://www.bahairightsday.org/. This is hosted by an independent group called Iran Press Watch. Please visit this site and tell others about it, particularly sending to friends and colleagues in the Middle East — for they are the only ones who can stand up in direct, non-violent solidarity.
Class and Race in Social Networking
Not having been on either Facebook or MySpace, I had a hard time believing it at first — but the talk The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online makes a convincing argument that racial and class politics have made emerged in social networking in some surprising ways. Do you buy it?
A Plurality of "Marriage"s
The op-ed, Is My Marriage Gay? in the New York Times (5/11/09), describes the unusual state of affairs surrounding marriages where one partner has legally changed gender after the marriage was recognized by the state. The country is patchworked with statutes and laws that make such a marriage anywhere from fully recognized to partially tolerated to anathema. And this makes no sense to me, except in recognizing that people are afraid of what they do not know. Well, go hug a transgendered person today (in person or virtually if that's what it takes). Get to know her or him.
Elements in the U.S. have been eager to make sure that only the right kinds of people can marry each other. This determination is based on "tradition" and religious belief. These should have limited or no role in governance. If "tradition" were allowed to define governance, we would still have blue laws that kept everything closed on Sundays; women would not be allowed into the voting booth; and African Americans would still be kicked to the curb in the North and enslaved in the South. Tradition is important: stare decisis when there is no reason otherwise. But when it comes to expanding freedoms and looking out for the well-being of all its citizens, governments should be willing to stand up against the oppression of a few and put tradition aside. To quote the Prof. Boylan's op-ed:
"Whether a marriage like mine is a same-sex marriage or some other kind is hardly the point. What matters is that my spouse and I love each other, and that our legal union has been a good thing — for us, for our children and for our community."
Baha'i International Community's Response to Iranian Prosecutor
Call me biased if you will, but I was rather impressed by the open letter (PDF) written by the Baha'i International Community (BIC) to the Prosecutor General of Iran last week. The BIC is the world wide Baha'i community's official representation at the United Nations. As you may have heard, the ad hoc group that helped arrange some of the affairs of the Baha'i community in Iran was arrested last year and the government is now talking about bringing them up on charges of espionage. The last time anything like this happened, those arrested were executed (and before that they were simply "disappeared").
Racial Healing in the U.S. Today
In 1938, Shoghi Effendi, Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, sent a remarkable "letter" to the Bahá'ís of the United States and Canada, titled Advent of Divine Justice. Although he did not, to my knowledge, ever visit North America (1), his diagnosis of the spiritual and moral illnesses of this land were, and remain, uncanny.
Among the issues addressed, he directly challenged the racial status quo in America. In a time of Jim Crow and segregated meetings – even amongst many of the Bahá'ís (2) – the Guardian declared, "As to racial prejudice, the corrosion of which, for well-nigh a century, has bitten into the fiber, and attacked the whole social structure of American society, it should be regarded as constituting the most vital and challenging issue confronting the Bahá'í community at the present stage of its evolution." (3).
Thank God She Is Dead
Eluana Englaro, 38, force-fed without purpose or meaning since 1992, has died. While her injury was no doubt a tragedy, her death should marked by humanists as a triumph of reason and celebrated by those who believe in an afterlife. "Death is a messenger of joy," to paraphrase Baha'u'llah, for with it comes the "joyful tidings of reunion." The greatest tragedy, today, is not that she has died. It is that so many have fought so hard against allowing nature to take its course.
How do we pick ourselves up?
"Question" asked in a social networking group: World financial crisis. Very good friend of mine wrote me: "It's not important how you got down, it is important how you get up".
Top-down regulations are needed, it is true, to help "fix" and "prevent" the kind of financial non-sense that is killing us. But more importantly, how do we confront the reality that, in our culture as we know it, there will always be people looking to game that system? How do we confront the reality that the financial mess is not a cause, but a symptom? That will require looking deeply at our character, as individuals and as a society. It will require self-evaluation and social exploration, and the cultivation of values that channel human will and energy in better directions (perhaps into justice? into truly equal opportunity for well-being?). In a word: virtues.
Socially, majority-Americans have finally undone hundreds of years of consigning non-human status to non-white Christians. Now that we can see someone as human regardless of color, shape, hair style, etc., what is next? We have to learn to see and feel as one another. That requires patience, magnanimity, loving-kindness, generosity. If we can "get up" with those qualities, then perhaps we'll be less likely to fall down again.
In Need of a Nature Bailout
If our economy is in need of a financial bailout, then perhaps our society is in need of a nature bailout. I've often felt that lack of spirituality is one of the strongest elements holding society back from a greater advancement of the general weal. New evidence suggests that lack of contact with the natural world stunts individual focus, resolve, and calm – in other words, it interferes with our ability to approach the world constructively. I'm convinced there is a connection between these two notions, though I'm not ready to explore that connection just yet.
A Grassroots Movement for Rural Healthcare
This month's National Geographic has a long article on the effects of the Jamkhed health care movement, Necessary Angels in India. It is an amazing look at the grassroots power of providing basic health care — primarily preventive and environmentally holistic — in an area under-served by allopathic and ayurvedic techniques alike. This is a movement that has the same potential as the Grameen Bank, as the Green Belt Movement. It is changing lives, communities, and ecosystems.
A few lessons that can be learned:
- Importance of focusing development efforts on those with the "lowest" status (typically women, here untouchable women);
- Basic needs assessment emphasized over (but not exclusively) advanced medical treatments;
- Bringing science to the people;
- Self-organizing principals at the local level, including ability of those "on the ground" to make decisions and act locally without having to go back for expert guidance.
Tangent: there is much here convergent on Lean principles of management. This movement is eliminating a lot of waste in the way of delivering health care.
MST3K: Pepto Bismal for Star Trek and John Wayne
After SNL we stumbled across a Star Trek: TOS episode, one in which Kirk is split into two personalities by a transporter malfunction. I've probably seen this, but don't remember it. I came back in the room roughly 10 minutes in, so missed those crucial intro scenes. When I came in, a blonde yeo(wo)man had smeared lipstick and was explained to Spock and the Captain that the Captain had attacked her, just look at the scratches on his face. But there were none, and thus they realized there must be "an imposter" aboard.
Review: The Dark Knight
We've been big fans of the Burton Batman films and the first one from Nolan, so we had high expectation going into the theater for The Dark Knight today. We were not let down. I won't be the first to observe that the violence was quite indirect (thankfully), that the pacing was strange, and that the human/social analysis was fascinating without slapping you in the face.
Massive Wave of Socialization
Responding to and expanding on Al Gore's recent speech and plan for moving completely to renewable energy sources over the next ten years, Alex Steffen of WorldChanging has recently written about our need to redevelop not only our energy systems, but also our cities, our industries, our farms, our food and clothing. In short, "We need a massive wave of innovation, right now, in every single part of America's material civilization."
We also need a massive wave of socialization, right now, in every community across America and the rest of the world. We need to learn to see with each other's eyes, to feel what the other feels — especially when the other does not look like us. We need to step beyond national loyalties into a loyalty to the world, for "the earth is but one country and mankind its citizens" (Bahá'u'lláh).
Bahá'í Notions of Social Change
I now return to the second theme, the social theme, that I mentioned in a recent post responding to WorldChanging's Neighborliness, Innovation and Sustainability. In that previous posting, I hinted at link between Alex Steffen's emerging viewpoint on social change and the paradigm promoted by the Bahá'í teachings, and I'd like to start exploring that paradigm.