Anouncement: EPA Reps to Speak About BP, Katrina, & Civil Rights in NOLA

(New Orleans, LA) – Lisa Perez Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will join General Russel Honore as a featured speaker at the Justice Revius O. Ortique, Jr., Civil Rights Award Banquet Thursday in New Orleans.

Administrator Lisa P. Jackson leads EPA’s efforts to protect the health and environment for all Americans. As Administrator, Jackson has focused on core issues of protecting air and water quality, preventing exposure to toxic contamination in our communities, and reducing greenhouse gases. She has promised that all of EPA’s efforts will follow the best science, adhere to the rule of law, and be implemented with unparalleled transparency.

“The Louisiana Justice Institute is proud that EPA Administrator will join us to represent President Barack Obama and join us in honoring the courageous Civil Rights Leaders who have stood on the frontlines in the fight for social justice,” said Tracie Washington, Co-Director of the Louisiana Justice Institute.

Administrator Jackson is the first African-American to serve as EPA Administrator. She has made it a priority to focus on vulnerable groups including children, the elderly and low-income communities that are particularly susceptible to environmental and health threats Before President Barack Obama appointed Jackson EPA Administrator,  she served as Chief of Staff to New Jersey Governor Jon S. Corzine and Commissioner of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Prior to joining DEP, she worked for 16 years as an employee of the U.S. EPA.

Jackson is a summa cum laude graduate of Tulane University and earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University.  She grew up as a proud resident of Ponchartrain Park in New Orleans.

General Russel Honore’, commander of Joint Task Force Katrina, is credited with restoring order in the chaotic wake of Hurricane Katrina, and for coordinating military relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina-affected areas across the entire Gulf Coast before launching the region’s recovery from the epic disaster that followed Katrina. He retired with 34 years of military service after serving with distinction in a variety of command positions in South Korea, Germany and Washington, DC, and currently resides in southeast Louisiana. General Honore’ is the author of the highly acclaimed book, Survival: How Being Prepared Can Keep You and Your Family Safe.

Tickets and sponsorships are still available for event online at: www.louisianajusticeinstitute.org or by calling (504) 872-9134.

The Louisiana Justice Institute (LJI) is a nonprofit, civil rights legal advocacy organization, devoted to fostering social justice campaigns across Louisiana for communities of color and for impoverished communities. LJI understands that as a state-based civil rights organization, it can and must serve as an agent for social change in Louisiana. Its creation is responsive to a specific and urgent need to resurrect capacity for statewide, systemic, legal advocacy on behalf of those most in need of assistance – Louisiana’s minority and poor residents.

If God is Willing … Katrina Doc

If you missed the first half of Spike Lee’s follow up documentary to the Katrina-Bush disaster in the Gulf, you should not miss tonight’s conclusion. While the first part revisited families and their traumas and rebuild, the second half is meant to address the BP spill and its impact on already struggling communities. I promised to review the film today on twitter, but that was before I found out it had more than 1 part airing on more than 1 night. So for now, take a minute to look at the preview for the film:

As you can see the documentary covers many of the topics decolonized and racial justice feminists have been blogging about since Katrina happened. Organizing continues and the need is still there.

The second half airs tonight at 6pm PST and 9 pm EST

More Radical Opportunities in NOLA

With all the talk of who is doing what over in the Gulf, I thought it might be nice to announce an event where people are actually pooling knowledge, talking about change, and then getting down to the business of it. It won’t stop BP from telling their version of truth about what is going on with the oil spill or their seemingly unrealistic version of how long clean up will take, but if you are tired of the spin and want to work on all of the other and intersecting issues going on in the region while taking a break from trying to save fragile wildlife, here’s one such place to start:

Last month, more than fifty people took part in spellbinding story sharing and conversation with Ms. Dodie Smith-Simmons. This Thursday, join John O’Neal for storytelling and conversation about nonviolence as a tactic and a way of life.

What: Talkin’ Revolution: Conversations with Elders who Led the Way, featuring John O’Neal
When: Thursday, June 10, 7pm
Where: The 7th Ward Neighborhood Center,
1910 Urquhart Street at Pauger Street
FREE PROGRAM

Gut Reaction

(the one where I quote the Bible, its rare but I’m going there)

This morning I opened the blog to see a featured image from wordpress of a bird coated in oil from the Korean oil spill off the coast of San Fran several years ago (see below):

unattributed

I literally burst into tears. Two thoughts in my head screamed for supremacy:

  1. WHY?!? Why is our greed and consumption so insatiable that life itself is not a big enough deterrent to any number of atrocious acts committed in our names or desires?
  2. Have “I” not clothed and fed the birds of the air and the flowers of the field (a paraphrase of Matthew 6:26-30)

What I had forgotten about the latter is that the illustration in Matthew is not solely, as I remembered it to be, about how well G-d cares for the plants and animals of the Earth. (That passage is actually Psalm 104 which specifically outlines how G-d cares for all creatures and they all have worth.) Instead, Matthew talks of G-d’s love and care for them as an illustration of how much greater His love and care for human beings must be, because “we are more important.” And maybe that is the problem, while not all of us come from a Judeo-Christian tradition many concepts in capitalism are tied to a manifest destiny thoroughly tied to a mis/reading of scripture that has seeped into the global capitalist culture detached from its Divine mandates. Thus we shed ideas of stewardship (Leviticus 25: 23-24, Ezekiel 34: 2-4, Isaiah 24: 4-6, ), vegetarianism (Genesis 1: 29), and animal exploitation as a sign of our moral depravity (Ezekiel 34:17-18) while clinging to the ideas of being better than the plants and the animals of this Earth (Matthew 6:25-32) and domination over or exploitation of those things that do not produce profit (Genesis 26 & 28). In other words, greedy men found or manipulate religions to justify their greed and end the end, their justifications are so ingrained (hegemonic) that they go unquestioned as the very fabric of our societies and our “democracies.” And then this happens:

Prince William Sound Exxon Valdez Spill/ Unattributed

While the world cries in private because our tears and our truths are too painful or too honest for mainstream media or because the lives of so many lost pales in comparison to a contrived story about the Nation of Islam confronting the Secret Service or your local weather forecast …

But let’s be clear, the devastation in the Gulf is the direct result of over-consumption and dependence on oil in a time when we are entering our 7th year of war in the Middle East. The loss of lives there and here for something we can and should be learning to live without or at least with less rises every hour while we keep driving to nowhere.

rescued bird New Orleans/ AP Photo

Here’s what happens when a wild bird becomes contaminated with crude oil. The instinct to preen their feathers takes over all other needs, including feeding and evading predators.  By preening, birds ingest oil which causes systemic damage to their internal organs.  By not eating, they become dehydrated and malnourished.  And with no ability to evade predators, they are more prone to the Darwinian cycle.

Preening is a bird’s natural way of keeping their feathers aligned, clean and in place, which ensures buoyancy and a watertight seal for proper body temperature.  Much like shingles on a roof, birds’ feathers need to be aligned and positioned just right for protection from the water.

The National Wildlife Federation states, “The Gulf Coast is extremely important for hundreds of species of migrants, which variously breed, winter and rest here during migration. The population effects on birds from this spill will be felt as far north as Canada and Alaska and as far south as South America.” (Care)

Yesterday, 494 dead birds were found in the Gulf area. The majority of them had no oil on their feathers but instead likely died from consuming oil, dispersant chemicals, or other toxins related to the spill in the air, water, or through their food.

Whether you subscribe to a religious belief that we are called to care for every living thing on this planet:

But now ask the beasts and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; Or speak to the Earth, and it will teach you; And the fish of the sea will explain it to you. Who among them does not know … (Job 12:7-9)

a social justice one, like the ancient Arab Agricultural League, the Socialist League, or the more modern Green Peace who were all born out of concern over existing environmental degredation and a desire to combat it; or a self-interested one:


* where “zombies” are stand in for CEOs of MNCs like BP

The bottom line is that we are all impacted by the devastation in the Gulf (both the Mexican one and the Persian one).

This morning I cried not just for the loss of a single bird or ecosystem or the break in a food chain in which we are all implicated, but rather over the loss of the most sacred parts of what make us human. Little by little we have been sacrificing the best parts of ourselves to capitalist consumption and without a great sea change we won’t be alive long enough to re-learn how great and wondrous we (all of us on this planet) were meant to be.

Drill Baby Drill

Every time I write a sentence to contextualize the oil disaster in the Gulf, I erase it. It would be easy to use this event to further a political agenda, especially given that unlike people pointing to Obama I have a historian’s eye view and can actually point to trade agreements, economic systems, war decisions, etc. that predate him and are almost all made and perpetuated by Republicans. Certainly all of us can remember Palin’s chant to “drill baby drill” from only a year ago. And yet, this partisan politics seem to be both childish and offensive in the face of the devastation. Estimates related to the amount of oil spilled already and the impact on wildlife, fragile ecosystems, and the fishing industry alone should bring all the finger pointing to an end and mobilize anyone who can to get to the coast to help. Not surprisingly, when you stop watching mainstream media, that is exactly what we are seeing. The national guard, environmentalist organizations, activists (including Kevin Costner, who has invested in a machine that can separate water from oil), and volunteers are working around the clock to try and stop further contamination of the Ocean, Wetlands, and Gulf and to clean and rescue as many animals as they can. While mainstream media fans the flames of partisan politics and the President looks perturbed while claiming BP is obligated to do what we want, real people are out there fighting to preserve an already fragile ecosystem.

For the rest of us, there is a lesson in what is going on in the Gulf: global capitalism neither cares about people nor plants and animals. Everything is an exploitable resource and every corner that can be cut will be to make the profit that much larger. More than that, the media and the paid blogging political pundits will always mobilize to distract you from the lives lost (human and animal) and the long term impact in order to get you caught up in finger pointing. Whether it is the distraction of the supposedly criminal “illegal aliens” running amuck that keeps you from questioning how laissez faire capitalism, international lending, and free trade agreements have created a global devaluing of workers, increased exploitation of workers, women, and children, and forced chosen and unchosen massive migration of labor that depends on them being unbound by borders, or the “unmoved President” whose lack of action somehow both caused the spill and failed to address it afterward that keeps you from asking questions about oil dependence, exploitation of already vulnerable populations, the ongoing consolidation of power over governments by corporate interests, and profit over people, the bottom line is that finger pointing is not only futile but also keeps the systems of power that let this happen in place.