All Shook Up

It was 7:17 AM on September nineteenth 1985 in Mexico when all the sudden the ground began to shake and buildings began to fall. Soon it was learned that an earthquake with a magnitude of 8.0 had occurred on the pacific coast of Mexico. One could only imagine the fear and shock that the people in Mexico had experienced at the time when this was happening.

The damage that occurred because of the earthquake was devastating.  According to the United States Geological (USGS) Survey’s Earthquake Hazards Program at least 9,500 people were killed and about 30,000 were injured.  It is estimated that more than 100,000 people were left homeless in addition to the numbers of death and injuries.  Though it has been reported that only 9,500 people died as a result, others claim that the amount of deaths could be as high as 35,000.

The USGS claims that the earthquake severely affected an area of approximately 825,000 square kilometers.  The cost of damage was extremely high, between 3 and 4 billion U.S. dollars.  There were also landslides and rockslides that resulted from the earthquake.  A tsunami occurred as well.  About 412 buildings collapsed and another 3,124 were extremely damaged in Mexico City. Approximately 60 percent of the buildings were destroyed at Ciudad Guzman, Jalisco. Damage also occurred in other states of Mexico including Colima, Guerrero, Mexico, Michoacan, Morelos, parts of Veracruz and in other areas of Jalisco.  Besides just the damage, about 20 million people claimed that they had felt it. (Ibid)

Damage done by the earthquake

According to one website, Global Politician, places that were destroyed by the earthquake included garment shops where several thousands of women worked.  These seamstresses worked in the sweatshops of a downtown area called San Antonio Abad. When these sweatshops were destroyed, the owners used equipment to remove sewing machines and industrial goods.  However, the owners refused to help the women who were buried in the ruins of the buildings and left them to die.  To these owners, the machines were worth much more than their women workers.

Global Politician also claims that the survivors of this terrible event told horror stories of being locked in overcrowded rooms with no way to escape and weren’t given any directions of what to do as the buildings fell. After all of this, these women were left jobless and their bosses refused to pay wages that they owed these women.  (Ibid)

Author of Human Rights of Minority and Women’s, Indrani Sen Gupta Angry tells the story of what these women did as a result.  Angry by the actions of their co-workers and bosses, these women workers from garment factories visited a group of feminist lawyers to see what could be done about what had happened.  The visits led to the establishment of unions such the National Union of Garment Workers and the Nineteenth of September Women’s Garment Union, that October.  This union was the first independent union to be created and recognized since 1976. (Gupta, 199)

According to Victoria Elizabeth Rodríguez, author of Women in Contemporary Mexican Politics, the union was unique because of the fact that it combined labor demands with a feminist agenda.  To raise money for the union they sewed and crafted dolls to sell on the streets and in markets.  Even more, these women formed alliances with feminist groups who also helped the union to raise money.  In her book, Rodríguez gives an example how a feminist magazine called Fem had an auction to sell jewelry that was donated by wealthier women.  All the money made from this event went to the union to use.  (Rodríguez, 78)

Although the union offered women empowerment, it was not always great.  According to Global Politician, a number of negative events occurred as a result.  Often times, seamstresses involved in the union were beaten up.  In addition, union elections were sometimes bought off.  Instead of working with the union and providing workers’ rights, owners would close down shops and opened shops other places.  The owners didn’t care if the workers had union contracts. However, although this was happening Global Politician says that these women stood their ground.

A Bronze statue of a women sewing.

Today, there is a statue  that stands where one factory stood before the earthquake according to one Mexican news article.  The statue is bronze and is of a woman sowing which memorializes the women who lost their lives that day.

If you have ever experienced an earthquake then you would know it’s scary enough to have the floor shake below you.  It has to be a million times worse being locked in a sweatshop and have the walls fall on you then have your bosses dig up machinery instead of you.  It’s heartbreaking and sickening to know that there are people like this out there.  It took a lot of power for these women to stand up against their bosses and demand rights after everything they had been through.  Even if they haven’t gained much from forming a union I think what these women have done is very inspiring.

If you didn’t know, sweatshops are still in existence.  It has been over twenty years since the earthquake in Mexico struck and these women formed the union.  One would think that after what happened to the thousands of women stuck below rubble that these conditions would change but unfortunately they haven’t.  Like we saw in the video shown by the Migration and Displacement group it is even happening on U.S. territory in Saipan.  What needs to be done to change these horrible working conditions?  If an earthquake hit Saipan and thousands of women working in those sweatshops died, do you think the owners would finally realize that change is needed? Or would the same that happened in Mexico where the employers refuse to recognize worker’s rights and simply move their companies?

For further reading:

Gupta, Indrani Sen. Human Rights of Minority and Women’s: Reinventing women’s right. Delhi: Gyan Publishing House, 2005. 198-199.

Rodríguez, Victoria Elizabeth. Women in Contemporary Mexican Politics. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003. 78.

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Boom. Bye, Bye Safety?

As a citizen of the United States, we hear a lot of information on the news involving what coal mines used to be like and how third world countries are still practicing these once used unsafe strategies to obtain coal. However, have any of you wondered what the United States does in Virginia and other various states to obtain the countries coal? Along these lines are coal mining practices even safe, and how are techniques of the “first world” countries better then surrounding third world ones? If you dig through some books or surf the web, you can find hundreds of articles relating to explosions in various states that result in unsafe and unethical decisions. On April 5, 2010, twenty-nine people lost their lives, and many others were injured in a coal mining accident in the state of Virginia of the United States, that was preventable if only the people working followed instructions accordingly. (infoplease.com)

At approximately 3:02 pm, on April 5, 2010 a massive explosion occurred at the Upper Big Branch South Mine in West Virginia. According to the United States Government, the explosion was preventable and had occurred because the management team did not practice the procedures and guidelines of the Mine Act. The management team broke four of the procedures in the Act that allowed the manager to work in the way he did, and allowed the workers to follow along without questioning authority (extremely common in factory-like jobs). The Big ranch South Mine broke the following: intimidation of miners, illegal procedures for advance notices, failed to comply with the Training Plan manual and failed to keep record books on the hazardous wastes that the had underground. (msha.gov) The United Sstates government stated that the explosion that had occurred started when natural gases seeped within the tail drum of the mine. When that gas mixed with the oxygen and other chemicals within the air, flames immediately enlarged. From the fire a methane explosion occurred which led to the coal dust exploding.

MSHA.gov stated that the operator did not follow four essential tasks in the mine that would have prevented the coal dust explosion. First the operator did not measure the methane concentration throughout the mine that day (mandatory under Mine Act). Secondly, the operator did not abide by he approved ventilation plans, which resulted in the oxygen and chemicals to mix and sit within the mine. Thirdly, the operator did not comply with the roof control plan. (msha.gov) And finally, the operator did not ‘rock dust’ the mine properly. Since the operator didn’t follow these small tasks, he also did not make sure that the actual mine was clear of excess coals, and the dust it created. Thoughts? Would you have fired this person when you found out things like this were slipping or would you have turned your head, and let those procedures to continue? The management team evidently sided with the operator, thus allowed the team to put themselves in dangerous situations. The question behind this is why would the management team allow this? The answer: money.

The management team knew that the ventilation systems and proper cleaning procedures were essential, yet they decided to risk their workers lives just to save a few dollars. As the investigation by the government continued, the investigators also found that water spray units were either no longer connected to the wall and/or were clogged. If these spray units were working the flames that caused the explosion could have been prevented, and there may have been twenty-nine more individuals alive today. The management team also did not want to pay for a cleaning company to come into the mine and take out the hazardous gases that were lingering in the mine. If the company simply had a ventilation system or a roofing system, the cleaning team would not of been needed. The gases would have evaporated within the air, which would have yet again saved the twenty-nine peoples lives. The management team was already under investigation by the MSHA, so you would have thought that the would have tried to fix something so they would not of been shut down, instead they just blew the entire thing up instead.

As the investigation proceeded, the investigators found a total of twelve violations that led to this explosion specifically to the performance of the company. There were two violations awarded to the contractor and 360 (yes 360) non-contributory violations that were found after the explosion occurred… Just a reminder, yes this all occurred in the United States. I want everyone reading this to think about how many times you hear news reports, articles and people saying how great the United States is. Now think about this explosion, which occurred in the United States because regulations were not heavily monitored. Since this only happened a year ago, who is to say that other companies within the United States are not risking the lives of their works just line this mining company just to save a few dollars. What does this should like to you? Id ay kind of like garment companies in Saipan or China etc. All of which are constructed by first world companies that abuse and step over their workers human rights in order to same and keep their money for themselves.

Since laws, Acts and human rights are being abused, how can individuals help prevent things like this horrible explosion from occurring again. Can we, as citizens, somehow convince large companies, like this coal and oil industries that spending money on safety precautions are worth it, not only for the individuals but also for the companies reputation as a whole?  Or do you think that this viscous money hungry cycle will not end until this concept of capitalism and ‘survival of the fittest’ ends for good?

Work Cited:

“MSHA – Fatal Accident Report – Performance Coal Company – Upper Big Branch Mine-South – Occuring April 5, 2010.” Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Web. 13 Apr. 2012. <http://www.msha.gov/Fatals/2010/UBB/PerformanceCoalUBB.asp&gt;.

“Mining Disasters.” Infoplease. Infoplease. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. <http://www.infoplease.com/world/disasters/fatal-us-mining-accidents.html&gt;.

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This Anniversary Party is a Total Downer

Chernobyl. For those familiar with the event, the word alone evokes a wince, a grimace, a slow shake of the head. The horror of the 1986 nuclear disaster in the Ukraine will (hopefully) forever be remembered as “by far the worst nuclear reactor accident ever.” Today, April 13th, we’re just a couple of weeks shy of its 26th anniversary, on April 26th, which seems an appropriate time to reflect on the event itself and the consequences it had for the world around it.  While the effects of a nuclear disaster seem obvious: the displacement of residents in the surrounding area and the destruction of the natural environment in the immediate vicinity, those are only the horrible beginnings of the problems caused by the Chernobyl disaster. But, wait y’all! I’m telling a story! So I’ll start at the beginning.

Ya know, before this happened

The Chernobyl Power Plant was constructed in the Ukraine city of Chernobyl in the early 1970s, and first began producing power in 1977. The site operated as a nuclear power plant from that point until the year 2000 when it was finally decommissioned. The city of Chernobyl is 80 miles from the city of Kiev, which is the ancient capital of the Ukraine and was the third largest city in the Soviet Union. The nearby town of Pripyat was built in the early years of the Chernobyl Power Plant’s construction and operation, to house the power plant workers and their families. The plant operated steadily and without controversy for several years, despite a 1982 accident described as a “partial core meltdown.” This accident, the fault of a plant operator, led to increased radiation levels at the work site, however this accident and its extents were covered up by the Plant Director and the KGB at the time of the incident. While some documents have been discovered and made public, it is likely we will never have all of the information about the 1982 accident.

The 1986 disaster, however, proved far too catastrophic for a cover up. On April 25th, technicians at Chernobyl Power Plant turned off reactor four for routine maintenance and to perform testing. In the course of the testing, technicians turned off several of the plant’s safety mechanisms. Halfway through the tests, the demand for power in Kiev required that the reactor be turned back on, which it was, and it operated for nine hours before it was turned back off and testing was resumed. Two hours later, the reactor’s power dropped suddenly, a problem that could have been addressed without disaster had the safety mechanism. At 1:23am, the reactor exploded, killing 32 people.

The Soviets launched into action. Residents of nearby Pripyat were evacuated the day after the explosion. Attempts to clean the site were poorly thought out and ineffective: mandating that nearby residents stay indoors while they tried to put out fires with at first water, and then sand and nitrogen. Chernobyl residents remained in the area for six days. The explosion went undetected throughout the world for two days, until similar power plants in Europe began detecting higher radiation levels. The Soviet Union at first denied any responsibility for the radiation, but eventually, that evening, they admitted that there had been an incident with a “damaged” reactor.

The cleanup of Chernobyl continued for years, with 200,000 Soviet workers recruited to participate. For years after the initial cleanup, Ukranian experts struggled to find ways to dispose of contaminated soil and plant life, and ways to purify and revitalize the area.  Just over a year ago, the Ukranian government declared Chernobyl and nearby Pripyat remediated and safe for tourists, but some have expressed doubt of the validity of that claim.

Whaaaat? This looks totally safe. Let's all go. This summer.

The health impacts were almost immediate. The Chernobyl disaster marked the largest uncontrolled radioactive release into the environment ever recorded for any civilian operation, The plant continued to release radioactive substances into the air for a week and a half after the explosion. These substances, of course, were not limited to Chernobyl and its surrounding areas: once in the air, the radiation permeated throughout the Ukraine, Russia, and was even detected in Europe and Scandinavia.

The Chernobyl disaster had grave consequences for the entire country; the dislocation of 220,000 people over a period of just a few years is disruptive to economies, with an influx of new prospective workers and the same amount of jobs, educational facilities not prepared to deal with a rapidly increasing student population, housing markets not prepared to accommodate so many people at once. In addition to this, families of the 200,000 workers recruited to Chernobyl for the cleanup were forced not only to try and keep their families intact while forcibly separated, but also had to manage to provide emotional support for each other with the knowledge that their family members, most likely fathers and brothers, were working and interacting with highly poisonous and radioactive substances on a daily basis.

It has been difficult to sufficiently document the health and environmental impacts of this disaster, due in large part to the lack of comprehensive and reliable data on health and environmental conditions in the region prior to the explosion. The Soviets were sort of cagey about that kind of thing, I guess. However, the existing data is certainly cause for alarm: by the year 2000, there had been 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer in children who had been exposed to the radiation released as a result of Chernobyl. And that is only one statistic. We are tragically familiar with the effects of nuclear radiation on human health, having quite the history, from the atom bomb to Love Canal and beyond.

Chernobyl should have taught the world myriad lessons, from the risks of nuclear power, to cavalier attitudes about safety protocol, but do you think that it did? Would you feel safe living near a nuclear power plant? Would you visit Chernobyl? (I kind of want to. Is that awful?)

TERRIFYING DISMEMBERED DOLL HEAD AND LIMBS. This is from a kindergarten class room in Pripyat, which has been abandoned since it was evacuated the day after the explosion.

Further Reading: Chernobyl:

The Real Story – Richard F. Mould
Chernobyl: The Long Shadow – Chris C. Park
Chernobyl: Insight From the Inside – V. M. Chernousenko

ALSO, go look through this and this! It’s where I got all the pictures from, and there are WAY more creepy old toys, an abandoned Ferris wheel I can’t stop staring at, and lots of amazing, incredible and heartbreaking photographs. This one too.

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Brave new World

The actual Fire

The River, the river, the river is on fire, don’t get the water, just let it burn. Well this isn’t quite the anthem people had in mind on June 22, 1969, when the Cuyahoga River caught on fire but I like it. Well that’s significant, water catching on fire, it almost sounds like something Jesus would do, but I digress. The events that led to this day in history are direct results of many generations of pollution being dumped into the Cuyahoga River in Ohio the resulting chemical combinations caused; well you guessed it, FIRE.

What’s important to remember is this is the beginning of something wonderful; soon after this people all across the United States set themselves into action and organize to protest the pollution of our wonderful planet. The results are the first ever earth Day. That wonderful day where we give up a few creature comforts, plant some flowers and say where green. Naturally we get back to our lives only a few moments later, but hey that’s not the point.

Desolater From red Alert 2. he has a toxic ozze gun that liquifies infantry. his catch phrase is "it will be a silent sprint"

Cheer up, I’m only kidding; the first earth day was the beginning of an environmental movement which continues to this day. It led to many legislations which have been continually updated. Among these acts are clean air and water, which as the name implies, cares about the quality of the air and water. These laws also make it illegal for companies to dispose of certain chemicals, and what chemicals they are allowed to dispose of are heavily monitored. In short the environmental movement created by the aftermath of the fire created laws where there were none.

So we know what happened in 1969, we know what earth day is about and yes we even its still celebrated today, but what does that mean to us? Well silly Goose I’ll tell you, but first a story.  It involves a woman, some call her a muckraker of sorts, and her name is Rachel Carson. She is the author of ‘A Silent Spring’, a book which became popular during the environmental movement. The book highlights how mankind was poisoning the environment and killing off many animal species. In short she reveals how one action has ripples and can create unintended side effects way down the line.  Thanks to Carson and the environmental movement many products and chemicals which were once legal became illegal or highly regulated.

So as I said, what’s this have to do with you? The answers simple, Do you like Green Eggs and Ham? I’m not talking about food colored either; if you answered no then we’re on the right track.  Regulating what man puts into the environments means we’re regulating what we ingest. Lets say you live in Tonawanda, where they have coke for iron, you breathe in some pretty nasty chemicals, and subsequently have a greater risk of developing cancer.  Now let’s talk water, everything on this earth that is alive needs water, everything.  Water also has the natural ability to flow, that’s why people have used it for travel for thousands of years. When it travels it takes whatever’s in it with it, hence pollution travels.  Now if companies and people were allowed to pollute like before than this could be a problem.

Remember that oil spill? Yeah that one, BP, You know me, they soiled all of the Gulf of Mexico, but silly rabbit, the oil slick didn’t stay in one spot. In fact it found its way across beaches all over. It ruined Louisiana’s fishing season, killed millions of birds, fish and other wildlife, and had serious economic consequences. Yeah that’s what water does, it travels and if BP wasn’t a lesson in how far and fast then I don’t know what to say.

Pollution while devastating to everyone can sometimes be a little more selective on which it picks on.  Sometimes women get the short end of the stick. Contaminated water is dangerous to everyone, but especially dangerous to women who are pregnant or are breastfeeding. In addition water borne diseases such as dysentery, and diarrhea kills

A mother holding her child from the effects of dysentery

thousands weekly. Women again are given uneven priorities in this. Women in many societies are tasked with water gathering. Now, now this isn’t going to the tap, it’s going several miles to river, and if the nearest rivers polluted then you move on to the next.  Now if the next river, well or water source isn’t clean then death, disease or sickness may be the unfortunate outcome.

Women are also mothers, go figure, and as mothers they seem tasked with a disproportionate amount of work with raising the children. When the child’s sick, mom is responsible, when the husband sick, the wife is responsible and when she is sick, she is responsible. So given the heavy burden moms already facing I think it’s best to keep her and the water ways healthy.

Now that we have established the benefits of clean water I’d like to make mention of some other important things that came out of the environmental movement. Along with earth day, people began to search for alternative ways of living. The results are around to this day. Many people now compost, grow their own organic foods and even recycle. The Cayuga river fire announces to the world, I am not invulnerable, and Mother Fucker, if I’m going down, I’m taking you with me. That too grabbed people’s attention as they didn’t know Mother Nature could be so crass, but sometimes when foul colored waters don’t do the trick you have to set yourself on fire. Sometime, one of these days when you think no one’s listening, set yourself on fire and see how much attention you’ll get.

But if you’re smarter than thinking the River was just looking for attention, join me in redefining what it is to be environmentally aware. You don’t have to buy a T-shirt, or wait for the next earth day, recycle, use less, plant an organic garden, and think about the earth as a mother, that’s what she is.

for more info please use the links.

Enjoy these fines reads

A Fierce Green Fire: The American Environmental Movement by Philip Shabecoff

Silent Spring By Rachel Carson

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Seriously, Just Get A Water Filter Already

While one, two, or three dollars seems a reasonable price to pay for to quench your thirst, when purchasing a bottle of water, you are paying about 1,900 times more for the water within it than you would otherwise pay for tap water. When sold in a bottle, water costs more per gallon than gasoline. And here’s the kicker: many popular brands of bottled water are just filtered tap water, as described in this CNN News Report from 2008.

A 2011 study done by Environmental Working Group outlines three primary questions in regards to potable water:

1)      Where did the water come from?
2)      How was the water treated prior to being bottled and sold?
3)       How pure is the water?

While there is a widespread assumption that bottled water is more sanitary than tap water, this is not the case, as has been repeatedly proven in testing. Suppliers of bottled water spend millions of dollars on fancy labeling and advertisements to promote their brand as somehow “healthier” or “more natural” than tap water, when, in fact, the very opposite may be true. For instance, in 2006, Fiji, one of the most expensive bottled waters sold in the US, ran a magazine ad campaign with the tagline The label says Fiji because it’s not bottled in Cleveland. Offended, the city of Cleveland took comparison tests and discovered that Cleveland tap water was actually of a higher quality than Fiji brand bottled water. Fiji water contained trace amount of arsenic, while Cleveland’s water had none. With the municipal water that comes out of your sink, there are specific and publically available answers to these questions. Laws and governmental regulations dictate and oversee the provision of water, ensuring its safety. Bottled water, however, is not subject to the regulations that protect the cleanliness of tap water.

A 2009 survey done by Environmental Working Group revealed that out of 188 commercially available brands of tap water, only two revealed answers to all three primary questions posed above about the water they were selling. Nine out of ten of the top-selling bottled water companies in the United States did not provide information on where their water is coming from, in terms of geographic location, the method used to treat the water, or any contact information for consumers interested in obtaining more information about the water they were drinking.

And that’s just regarding the contents of the bottle. The bottle itself is a different story entirely. The series of processes regarding the manufacturing, consuming and disposing of plastic bottles is harmful both to human health and the natural environment, which are inextricably linked.

Plastic bottles, the majority of them at least, are made using petroleum, a nonrenewable oil that must be extracted from the earth via drilling, a practice hazardous both to the natural environment being drilled and surrounding it, as well as to the health of the human beings paid to drill, a job that is physically dangerous, exhausting and unsafe, and not well-paid.

The most common component of plastic bottles is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which, according to the Sierra Club, generates more than 100 times more toxic emissons than an equivalent amount of glass, and takes up to 1,000 years to decompose. While some more environmentally progressive companies use “bioplastics,” or plastic made from plant materials. This is often printed on the label of bottles produced this way; many bottles claim to be made either entirely or some percentage of bioplastics. This method is better for the environment because it does not require the use of a non-renewable energy source, and the decomposition rate is significantly faster, minimizing time spent in landfills. However, the rate at which these bottles decompose is a little too rapid; if left on the shelf for too long, the bottles will leak and become deformed. It must also be noted that even if this decomposition problem were to be solved, the production of bioplastics is not a panacea for the environmental issues of PET plastic; bioplastics require extensive farmland that could otherwise be used to grow food, the plants used require a large amount of water during their growth period, and the manufacturing of the plants into plastics requires many harmful chemicals. In short, while bioplastics are less harmful for the environment than plastics composed of PET, they are still damaging.

Thus far, I have emphasized the role of the US consumer in the bottled water industry, but it is not exclusively an American market. PBS’ web series P.O.V.’s Borders discusses the bottled water phenomenon and informs us that there are between fifty and one hundred thousand different bottled water labels across the globe. France, for instance, is home to 350 different water bottle labels. New-York based artist Nancy Drew studied hundreds of said labels and then did a series of paintings based on them. She explains her research as “like a multicultural study of graphic artist,” explaining that “all of [the different labels] are portraying the same thing, water, but each culture has their own way of seeing it.” (These paintings, entitled The Water Series, are unfortunately not available on her website.) The issue of bottled water and sanitation quality is a global problem as well; just last Friday, the government of Pakistan rescinded the licenses of 30 different bottled water manufacturers, with two more firms having their licenses revoked just today.

If you have a bottle of water in your near vicinity, take a look at the label. Does it tell you where the water comes from? Does it tell you how the water has been treated?  Is there any information regarding sanitation testing of any kind? Does it give you any contact information for you to call and ask these questions?

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“Garment with No Guilt”

Walking down the hallways on campus, I’m sure many of us notice the many labels people are wearing. Lacoste, Jcrew, North Face, Burberry and Ralph Lauren are examples, just to name a few. These brands are used in today’s society as a social stature that depicts your standing economically. Have you however wondered where these articles of clothing came from, how the people were treated that created them, and how society would be shaped if clothing wasn’t one of the ways individuals based judgment upon one another with?

Ralph Lauren is known for their latest Big Pony Polos, their sophisticated suits, their stunning dresses, and superb scents of cologne. People see the Ralph Lauren logo (either a Jock and its horse or the initials RL) and automatically assume that the individual wearing it must have money. After working at Ralph Lauren for five years, I saw people of all social classes walk in just to browse, or to spend thousands of dollars on six items. Who woke up one day and decided, ‘hell,wearing a pony on my shirt makes me wealthy’? In today’s society the more name brand items you have, the better off you are simply because of how expensive they are. For example, a polo from Walmart cost around ten dollars, while a polo from Ralph Lauren ranges from fifty dollars up into the three hundred dollar range. So, the association between wealth that clothing directly correlates.

When buying these high-end articles of clothing, do you ever wonder where the clothing actually comes from? Most factories that create Ralph Lauren merchandise are found in Third World countries. The highest label of Ralph Lauren is however made in Italy (incase you were wondering). Some of the Third World countries used includes Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Specifically, Sri Lanka produces the majority of the clothing for Ralph Lauren. When googling garment industries in Sri Lanka, the first five sites that pop up are interesting enough to be discussed. Some are advertisements by corporations encouraging companies to bring ‘your factory’ there, while the next title down includes oppressions of the women workers. So, which is there to believe, and who writes these articles? Should we, the future, focus on why cheap labor is a good thing, or focus on the health and unethical issues going on directly within these Sri Lankan factories?

Design Studio is a corporation that brings businesses from countries like the United States and various places in Europe to smaller, less developed countries for cheap labor and far less taxes. Design Studio stated that the country of Sri Lanka is a, “reliable supplier of quality garments at competitive prices, also upholds ethical practices backed by legislation, this being identified as a producer of ‘garments with no guilt.’” (Design Studio) Design Studios also states that environmental issues are also factored into the factories rules and regulations. This corporation (Design Studio) states that they use materials that are ‘standard specific’ which allow friendlier and a more sustainable environment. (DesignStudio) Sounds pretty great, right?

If these factories in were fair to their workers, allow no guilt, and are environmentally friendly, then where did these photographs come from:

 

 

As the saying goes, pictures speak a thousand works, so here you go. There are also many articles that state the opposite of what Design Studio is stating, and after seeing these pictures, who should you believe?

In 2006, Wasantha Rupasinghe wrote an article talking about the oppressive conditions that women face while working in these Sri Lankan garment factories. All of these factories are located in free trade zones, which allow no taxation/ tariffs, along with various other ‘pluses’/ positives for big businesses. When the United National Party government came into power in Sri Lanka, (1990’s) they created a “200 garment factory” that allowed many individuals to find jobs, which decreased unemployment, but didn’t change the amount of poverty.  When all of these factories were under construction, many trees and wildlife were destroyed. Rupasinghe talks about a remote village, Jamalapura, which was once full of nature, is now full of smog, pollution and poor immigrants looking for work. According to Wasantha Rupasinghe, these factories usually have 250 workers, most of them female. These factories looked for the cheapest amount of work, so the went to the ‘weaker’ gender, females. Since the 1990’s the factories have been reported to get worse and worse. One factory has had over 5 managers quit in a year, so productivity has decreased, which has lead to increase violence. Wasantha Rupasinghe also stated that overtime payments have been cut significantly and paychecks are being given latter than expected. On November 22, 2006 some workers went on strike because they were not paid their wages. They refused to go back to their factory machines after lunch, and eventually got their wages. However a few days after, the females were fired and new people replaced them. If only this occurred in the United States- I bet there would have been a lot of press on this issue.

Most women working in these factories either dropped out of schooling or were forced out, when their families could no longer supply for them. Most also have to travel far distances to get the most minimum of wages. Each operated averaged $1.50 per day, however there is a bonus of five to ten dollars a month depending on their ranking.

So, which side do you believe; the factory recruiters side, or the people working in them? Also, do both sides become problematic because they bring biased opinions. And how can people actively try to change what occurs in these factories without deterring away from capitalism. Finally, if consumers buying Ralph Lauren apparel found out the working conditions of the Sri Lankan females, would protests occur, or would life continue just as it is?

http://www.designstudiolk.com/why_sri%20lanka.html

http://investor.ralphlauren.com/

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/jan2006/sril-j12.shtml

http://oem.bmj.com/content/68/Suppl_1/A127.1.short

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Sleeping with the Lights on

Have you ever looked up at the sky during the night and wondered where all the stars were?  In any city in America it is hard to even tell there were ever stars at all.  We have become so used to lights being on all night that hardly any of us ever question the effects it has on the world and its environment.

For this blog I decided to focus on the light bulb and the affect that this artificial light is having on our world.  From as early as ancient Greece street lamps have been used.  However, in the past few hundred years it has become increasingly worse with the invention of electricity.

In 1792 the gas lamp was invented.  This allowed people to do more activities in the middle of the night.  Quickly after the invention of the gas lamp streets in both England and the United States were lit up at all hours of the night.  However, gas lights were not very favorable for various reasons.  It caused fire and the smell of gas wasn’t very pleasant. When the light bulb was invented in the 1870s more and more streets were lighten up. It was safer and eliminated the smell of gas. People could walk the streets and drive their cars as late as they wanted.  Eventually all homes were using artificial light at any given hour.

Over a hundred years later, I think people have finally taken it too far.  Today when you walk down the street at any time of the night it is most likely lighten up by artificial light.  In fact, 22% of all energy generated in the U.S. is used for lighting, with 8% of that used for public outdoor lighting, according to the International Dark-Sky Association.  This over usage of lighting has caused light pollution all over the world and is something that can severely hurt it.

Light pollution can have enormous negative effects on the world that many people do not know about or even care to think about.  According to the International Dark-Sky Association again light is excessive and inap¬propriate artificial light. It is an increasing problem which threatens “astronomical facilities, ecologically sensitive habitats, all wildlife, our energy use as well as our human heritage.”

There are four components of light pollution which are sky glow (the brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas), light trespass (light falling where it is not intended, wanted, or needed), glare (excessive brightness which causes visual discomfort) and clutter (bright, confusing, and excessive group¬ings of light sources, commonly found in over-lit urban areas). Ibid.

In this post I wanted to mainly focus on the effects the light bulb has had on ecosystems.  Insects cluster around outdoor lights. One website claims that on average one street light can kill about 150 insects a night meaning 54,750 insects are killed by on street light a year.  Think about how many street lights there are in cities and imagine how many insects are being killed a night, a week, or even a year.  Even though many of you might think that insects are insignificant and are just an annoyance, the death of insects greatly affects other living things on this planet. Many birds rely on insects for protein.  Lizards, frogs and bats also need insects for their food and if there is a shortage of insects then these animals will starve to death.

Birds are affected more than just by their source of protein. National Geographic states that some birds, like blackbirds and nightingales, are singing at unnatural hours because of artificial light.  Artificial light has also encouraged early breeding for some birds which can in turn harm of the unborn birds.  In addition, longer days made possible by light, have allowed for longer feeding and this affects migration schedules.  Migration is an exactly timed biological behavior. This means that leaving early can affect the condition for nesting.

Nesting sea turtles have also been affected.  Typically, female sea turtles nest on quiet dark beaches but because of the use of artificial light this has become harder and harder to find.  If the female turtle cannot find a place to nest then she will nest in the ocean and it limits the chance of survival for the hatchling. Lighting can also affect the hatchling after it has hatched.  Hatchlings are supposed to move toward the bright sea horizon (because of the moon’s reflection) but because of the light they become disoriented and walk inland where they can die from dehydration or predators.  Some can even be run over by cars or drawn in swimming pools near the beaches.

Insects, bats, birds and turtles are not the only living things affected by light pollution.  There are numerous such as toads, fish, trees and many more we do not know about yet.  Even more, there have been studies done that shows that this light can even hurt humans in various ways such as causing anxiety problems.

Obviously something needs to change in order to keep our animals alive and ourselves healthy.  However, I doubt many people will be willing to stop using street lights and use less of the lights within their homes.  I think for many people if don’t see the immediate consequences they don’t care enough to fix the problem.  Hopefully we can limit the amount of street lights there are currently or change the type of lighting that streets have.  Beaches were sea turtles are known to nest should ban the use of artificial light at night during nesting season.

How does the future of the world look? Does it look as bright as it does at one a.m. in New York City or Los Angeles?  Do you think you could do without your street lights to save the future of the ecosystem? Or do you believe you need the artificial light to survive even if it can hurt animals and trees?

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