Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Environmentalists React to U.S. EPA Proposal On Carbon Emissions

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed strict limits on greenhouse-gas emissions from new power plants this week, environmentalists remained cautious.

The proposal sets a standard of 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt-hour, which is expected to end construction of new coal power stations. Yet, it will not apply to existing power plants and does nothing to impact the attractiveness of natural gas for companies looking to build.

Overbrook Environment grantee Environment Defense Fund (EDF) applauded the EPA's efforts but not without caution. EDF's President Fred Krupp stated, "For what they're doing today, I think they deserve a standing ovation," but warned, "we can't address the threat that climate change poses to American communities without addressing carbon from existing plants."

Other environmental and public health groups remain mostly supportive of the rule, but believe that the EPA still has an obligation to address the largest single source of greenhouse gases - existing coal power plants.

The proposal is now open to public comments.

Monday, March 26, 2012

EPR Featured in New York Times

Extended Producer Responsibility, not so long ago an obscure term, is gaining momentum in the media. A feature article in Friday's New York Times Business section highlights several companies amping up their programs for reclaiming used packaging and recycling that previously trashed packaging into new products. Specifically highlighted are Starbucks, Coca Cola and the Gimme 5 Preserve program, supported by Stonyfield Farms, Brita and Whole Foods. Through Gimme 5, customers can bring empty #5 plastics (usually used for yogurt cups, margarine, hummus or takeout containers) to Whole Foods stores and place them in a designated bin for #5s. Up until just a few years ago, those #5s went straight to landfill in the United States. But in 2011, around 11 million yogurt cups were collected and converted into toothbrushes, park benches and razors.

Click here to read this heartening article in its entirety.

Scroll to the bottom to read Bill Sheehan's thoughts on how Walmart is helping to shape the EPR landscape. Sheehan is Executive Director of Product Policy Institute, a longtime Overbrook grantee.

'We Belong Together' Delegation Visits Alabama

As part of the We Belong Together campaign, several leaders representing the immigrant rights, women’s rights and other organizations within the social justice field travelled to Alabama in solidarity with those affected by the state’s harsh anti-immigrant law, HB 56, to hear firsthand about the experience of living under this law. We Belong Together’s delegation is co-led by Overbrook grantee NAPAWF and its Executive Director Miriam Yeung and includes a team from another Overbrook grantee Breakthrough and its Executive Director, Mallika Dutt. One of the first blog posts that I wrote for Overbrook was about this law, considered by many to be the country’s harshest anti-immigrant law. The implementation of this law is separating families with detention and deportation policies; denying access to livelihoods, housing, education and health care; and depriving many Alabamans of their human rights and civil liberties. In her blog, Ms. Yeung has stated, "when you lift the veil of sexism, racism, and xenophobia, it is clear to see that when people are being denied shelter, food, education and other basic human needs, this is a humanitarian crisis and an extreme human rights concern. Through this delegation, the group plans to expose and increase awareness of the situation facing these women and their families, as well as their leadership and resilience in responding to it. They have become engaged in this particular focus on women and children because these groups represent those most disproportionately affected by the law.

This delegation is particularly interesting because of its use of a gendered lens to look at immigrant rights issues and to incorporate leaders from many different sectors of the social justice field through a human rights framework. With human right at the heart of the initiative, these leaders have acted in solidarity as human rights defenders spreading these stories to broader audiences and laying the groundwork for future advocacy campaigns. Moving this out of a solely immigrants rights issue had already begun, but it is critical that these laws be challenged on multiple fronts and angles as seen in this initiative.

I am particularly impressed by the communication efforts being used to magnify the visibility and the articulation of the human rights crisis in Alabama. We can all remotely participate in this delegation visit by following participating activists’ tweets. Mallika Dutt, Executive Director of Breakthrough has been keeping her twitter followers up to date on the presentations and devastating stories that she has heard in Alabama. (Click here to view her twitter page.) Some examples include:

@mallikadutt: 14 year old Jocelyn alone now because parents deported. She stayed because mother has dreams for her. We are killing dreams #womentogether

@mallikadutt: Sylvia says battered women cannot seek help because both women and service provide can get arrested #womentogether

@mallikadutt: Campaign to lift up women stories to show how immigration enforcement devastating our families. #webelongtogether asks women to join fight.

The delegates have also contributed to a blog explaining their reasons for joining this delegation based on their personal, organizational, social justice and human rights-based backgrounds and perspectives. Here is Miriam Yeung’s blog post, “A Blog Carnival Celebrating Our Common Humanity: ‘We Belong Together’ Goes to Alabama!”, which also contains links to statements by all the other delegates, including Ms. Dutt’s “Why I’m Joining ‘We Belong Together’ in Alabama”. Additionally, Ms. Yeung’s post and the We Belong Together website include several stories from Alabaman women and children about the law’s impact on their families’ ability to access housing, health care, employment and schooling. In some of the cases, we hear of deportation and detention tearing families apart. These arguments from the delegates and, most importantly, hearing the stories from Alabamans themselves, are extremely powerful, so I hope that you have the time to explore them.

The Foundation is proud to support women’s groups’ leaders and their partners in Alabama for taking critical leadership roles in this fight for immigrant rights and domestic human rights.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Reproductive Rights Groups to Challenge Criminalization of Abortion in El Salvador

The Overbrook Foundation’s longtime grantee, the Center for Reproductive Rights and its Salvadoran partner, Colectiva de Mujeres para el Desarollo Local, have filed a new case with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to challenge the absolute abortion ban in El Salvador. The case will use tragic experience of one Salvadoran woman to demonstrate how the criminalization of abortion has unjustly harmed women. In a press release on the new case, the Center for Reproductive Rights explains:

“From the moment Manuela, arrived at the hospital seeking emergency health care, slipping in and out of consciousness and hemorrhaging, doctors treated her as if she had attempted an abortion and immediately called the police. She was shackled to her hospital bed and accused of murder. Manuela was sentenced to 30 years in prison without ever having a chance to meet with her lawyer, without an opportunity to speak in her own defense, and without the right to appeal the decision. Shockingly, the judge overseeing her case said that “her maternal instinct should have prevailed” and “she should have protected her child.”

After several months in prison, it was discovered that the visible tumors Manuela had on her neck for which she sought medical care several times without being accurately diagnosed, was advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma — a disease that likely lead to the severe obstetric emergency she suffered. Tragically, Manuela did not receive the appropriate treatment for her disease and died in prison in 2010, leaving behind her two young children.”

After reading this devastating account, The Overbrook Foundation is pleased that these organizations will look to human rights mechanisms at the international level in an effort to pursue justice for Manuela and other women at risk as a result of this ban. The case will be the first of its kind before the IACHR challenging the imprisonment of women for suspected abortion due to an unsafe focus on abortion rather than the protection of several human rights and the provision of appropriate medical care. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has a strong record for defending gender and human rights, as well as the power to increase international pressure on states ignoring their human rights obligations through the publicity of the commission’s decisions. Hopefully, a successful case at this level will encourage El Salvador, and maybe even other countries in the region with similar policies, to recognize the danger of its strict abortion laws and to ensure they are being held accountable for their record on human rights.

For more information, please see the press release from the Center for Reproductive Rights or a related article on the RH Reality Check.