Tomorrow, following GWA’s 14th Annual Conference, we will kick off the award ceremony with a showing of “From the Ground Up,” a short documentary about lack of access to clean water in Tanzania. (spoiler alert: the story has a happy ending!)
If you want to sign up for the conference, there is still time.
Get the hell out of my head, Bo Burnham. I’ve been singing your songs from “Inside” since our summer vacation, 11 hours in the car and most of that time listening on repeat to the entire special over and over — thank you, Spotify — a hilarious, draining, outrageous, unsettling, depressing, visionary, apathetically supercharged, and, crazily enough, charming special.
If you haven’t watched “Inside,” then head on over to Netflix where Bo Burnham will stand you on your head. Dozens of astute societal observations about everything, all revealing an apocalyptic, dystopian, unambiguous anxiety so spot on that you can’t help but laugh out loud as you gaze in the mirror and recognize the similarities.
Perhaps it’s because Burnham has tapped into my existential angst with these catchy pop tunes that are so damn sticky. He admits to hating catchy pop tunes and hypocritically employing them in his work, doing what most of us do all the time without realizing it — making and breaking alliances to suit our needs in any given moment.
Burnham is a comedian, writer, musician, actor and filmmaker who rose to fame on Youtube in 2006 at the age of 16 with a video about his whole family believing he was gay.
Imagine having a bazillion followers on your Youtube channel, people lining up to hear what you have to say because they know you’re going to make them laugh and think and maybe even help them work through some things. Imagine all this while you are still in high school and still have acne. Eventually the pressure gets to even the most seasoned hands, but a kid?
Pressure? What pressure?
Burnham didn’t stop there, and in 2018, he recorded a half-hour special with Comedy Central, the youngest person to have that opportunity. Being a teen is a challenging time — all those raging hormones while you employ a new way of seeing the world results in emotional overload — but being a teen during the internet age while the world is your stage could be cataclysmic for even the most mentally prepared adults.
Paradoxically, in 2016 while touring for his comedy special, Make Happy, Burnham began suffering from “crippling anxiety” and took one giant step backward to work on improving his mental health. It took five years, but he felt he’d corralled the monster. As he took his first tentative steps to reenter the world of comedy, the world slapped back with the coronavirus. He laughs about it in All Eyes on Me which is not so much a victory lap around anxiety — a tribute to moving beyond mental incapacitation — but evidence of one way one guy managed it.
Are you feeling nervous? Are you having fun? It’s almost over, it’s just begun. Don’t overthink this, look in my eye. Don’t be scared, don’t be shy, Come on in, the water’s fine.
You say the ocean’s rising — like I give a shit. They say the whole world’s ending — honey, it already did. You’re not gonna slow it, Heaven knows you tried. Got it? Good, now get inside. Bo Burnham, All Eyes on Me
Lest you think Burnham wasted this time, during the period of self-imposed standup lockdown, you’d be wrong: he wrote and directed, Eighth Grade (2018), which won critical and commercial acclaim, and also starred in a Promising Young Woman (2020).
Back inside, Burnham siloed like the rest of the world, used the time to turn his rants against “systematic oppression, income inequality, the other stuff” into a 1h 27m thesis on the effed-up state of mankind — apparently he’s only able to produce work if it’s significant to him — and produced a sparkling diatribe, cloaked in comedy, of societal ills that are much more digestible coming from him than when reading the New York Times.
“If you wake up in a house that’s full of smoke, don’t panic, call me and I’ll tell you a joke.If you see white men dressed in white cloaks, don’t panic, call me and I’ll tell you a joke. Oh shit, should I be joking at at time like this?” Bo Burnham, Comedy
Burnham wrote, directed, filmed, edited, and starred in this project, all recorded at his guest house in Los Angeles. The special shows his arc from disillusionment to something less edgy and, if not happy, at least more hopeful, the world opening up again, the cloud of mental anxiety lifting, at least for now. There are profound bits of wisdom, frank moments on suicide and mental health, and hilarious ones on corporate exploitation and elitism, on racism, classism, on being unhinged, and how the internet has allowed everyone to have the ability to say “everything and anything, all of the time,” all to catchy pop tunes.
Have a watch. You’ll be tapping your toes all the way to redemption.
My wonderful friend, Jean Lee has featured Oil and Water on her newest adventure, a podcast called Story Cuppings where she takes a “sip” of each novel by reading and analyzing the first chapter. It’s a delight to hear her read it. Please enjoy and thanks for listening/reading.
“No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves.”
Native American proverb
We are failing each other. Not just a run-of-the-mill, oops, sorry, kind of failure, but a spectacular, gory, unprecedented, worst-in-most-every-way kind of failure. The same way the body keeps score when you eat or drink too much, give it insufficient rest, or immerse it for too long in a toxic environment, so does democracy keep score when you ignore its needs. We have been ignoring each other’s needs and hence, democracy’s needs for years now, and in stunning show of collateral damage, the planet is dying a tumultuous, quaky, flood, fire and brimstone kind of death — all because we’d rather be right than get along.
What now seems like lifetimes ago, I began a journey writing my way through the Twelve Virtues of the Merchant Priests from the book, Sacred Commerce, by Ayman Sawaf and Rowan Gabrielle, a book that celebrates “global citizenship and stewardship.” I was very taken with this book and of the authors’ suggestion to practice each of the virtues for one month at a time until the reader got through all twelve. I started on January 1, 2018 in my consideration of them. My delay in finishing reminds me of a meme I once saw: “Slackers give 100%, just not all at once.
So far, I’ve written on honor, loyalty, nobility, virtue, grace, trust, courage, and courtesy. I got hung up for a very long time on gallantry, a practically extinct behavior in the modern day world, but finally pushed through. Left are authority, service and humility, and so I begin again with Authority, something with which many of us often have trouble and which is at the heart of our democracy woes today.
The dictionary defines authority (the first of eight definitions) as:
noun1 he had absolute authority over his subordinates | a rebellion against those in authority: power, jurisdiction, command, control, mastery, charge, dominance, dominion, rule, sovereignty, ascendancy, supremacy, domination; influence, sway, the upper hand, leverage, hold, grip; informal clout, pull, muscle, teeth.
The rest of the definitions go on to describe authority in all its various iterations of power and might: the unflappable pundit, the master, the cognoscenti, etc. Oh how a little authority can change someone, muddling their thinking processes and often creating a creature immune from reproach — much like many individuals tasked with running our country today — resulting in a widespread diaspora of ill-intention across the nation, perhaps even the world.
Today, ill-advised authority has reached a fever-pitch and the flip-flopping, mindless drivel that often runs from the mouths of some of the most influential people in our country — the decision to lie, cheat, and steal in an effort to hold onto power; the reinvention of oneself whenever it is politically expedient; the repetition of false or misleading information to sow hatred and confusion and undermine various levels of government — has left the citizens of the U.S. heartbroken and sick. We are so out of touch, we don’t even realize that our own words and actions have brought this chaos to our doorsteps.
When did mistrust get the most honored seat at the table, and how do we learn to speak to each other in civil tones again?
We are programmed to live from the top down, taking our cue from our parents, our siblings, our teachers, our friends, adopting their thoughts as our own, especially when we haven’t yet formed critical-thinking skills, and retaining them in perpetuity because they have now become a habit. It’s no surprise that children will mimic the sentiments of their parents; spend enough time with someone and your thoughts are likely to mirror theirs. So the authority in place when you were born has likely made a great impact on your view of the world.
But here’s the thing: you don’t have to keep looking out that window if you no longer like the view.
A couple years ago I went to Ellis Island for the first time. Wandering through the museum, I wasn’t surprised to see the xenophobia on display in newspaper articles, posters and other renderings that were part of the museum collection. Immigrants of all stripes, but especially Italian and Irish were routinely referred to as lesser than riff-raff who should go back to where they came from. With the help of museum staff, I found an entry for my Greek grandfather, showing an arrival in 1901, but ran out of time to look for my remaining grandparents arrival dates, all immigrants to America, the land of opportunity.
After decades of backbreaking work and impoverished living, scads of immigrants managed to claw their way up to middle class, working two and three jobs so their kids could be better off than they were, achieving the American dream that was not available to them in the countries from which they came. At that time, it was possible. Today, 20th years after the 9/11 attacks, it is harder than ever to achieve that dream, especially in an off-balanced America that looks at itself askew each day and asks, “can I trust that guy?”
The proliferation of guns, forever wars, conspiracy theories, and alternative facts has lead to a failure for us to agree on a narrative, even for the most mundane and universally accepted things things such as whether the earth is round or flat, all which would have been unheard of before 9/11. Instead of learning from the 9/11 attacks, we are still seeking revenge. Maybe it’s because we couldn’t call out and conquer the enemy that we turned our collective gimlet eye inward and started looking around at our neighbors. America, the melting pot, the greatest democratic experiment in history, the one that would have worked if it wasn’t for all those dang foreigners, is teetering on the weight of its own hyperbole. What if we had worked for reconciliation after 9/11 rather than revenge? Where would be be now? Less isolated, perhaps?
Claims of voter fraud despite the lack of evidence, a pandemic that has now taken the lives of 1 out of every 500 Americans, and an ongoing false narrative have worked to erode trust in our government’s authority to all-time lows. The headwinds on this level of distrust are fierce and sinking us farther into despair and isolation as we resort to tribalism, abandon reason and the rule of law, and choose instead to wallow in hatred and disillusionment, all to the benefit of a few in power and the detriment of the country as a whole. And that, friends, is how totalitarianism gets a toehold. The bitch of it all is that the peddlers of disinformation aren’t even hiding it anymore.
For example, the abortion ban in Texas simultaneously strips women of their constitutional rights and encourages vigilantism. Nice job, Authority! The pro-life faction thinks this is a win for their side, but they are wrong: it’s loss for us all because the bigger story is loss of a woman’s civil rights — an ultra vires exercise in authority — and once your civil rights have been eroded, they are hard to shore back up.
Today, 122 million women around the world want access to birth control but can’t get it. Just imagine how those women could contribute to society if they had access to family planning tools. Perhaps we wouldn’t have to even talk much about abortion anymore. Yet it’s not just poor women who are going to suffer by this rollback of our constitutional rights, but all of society, because, ultimately, society bears the burden and the cost of that which we ignore. And if you think this isn’t a haves and have-nots issue, don’t delude yourself: rich women in Texas will still figure out a way to get an abortion if they need one.
Was Margaret Atwood right? Is this only the beginning? Will patriarchal society devolve to the level of the Handmaid’s Tale, taking full control of women and their bodies, all enforced by the authority of the patriarchy? I pray it doesn’t go that far, but such an authoritative trampling of our human rights is in direct contradiction of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, itself a revolutionary concept — equal treatment for everyone — and one authoritative ruling bodies everywhere despise. Let’s not forget where we came from, and why We the People enacted that amendment in the first place.
We live in a world where the microcosm reflects the macrocosm back to itself. We envisioned a better life, one with a benevolent authority to guide us — not control us, nor dictate to us, and certainly not to devour us — and to help us build for the future as we deal with life’s thornier issues, but without a rule of law that we can all agree on, society is destined to fail.
Each of us is our own authority, but we must live within the construct of certain rules, otherwise we will trample each other and the planet to death. What do you want, not what does your congressman or senator or city councilman or PTO board member want. Only you. Orient yourself to your own lodestar, the one that lives in your heart, and see where it takes you. I bet it will be to a place of peace, not anger, a place of tolerance for the other guy’s views as well as for your own, a democratic place where everyone gets a say, because that’s the real American dream.
We can do this, people, but our desire to get along with each other needs to outweigh our desire to be right.
“What percentage of the world population can take a warm shower in their own home?”
Curious, I googled the question and found an interesting list of responses. I think it’s worth sharing the first 9 to illustrate something important – at least it’s how goggle’s search engine assesses my interests. I added links for each entry below in case anyone is interested in some of these topics.
How many times a day do you think about your drinking water? If you’re like me, drinking enough water each day is a constant struggle. I remember being chastised by my mom and, later, well-meaning friends who would criticize me for not drinking enough water. When life becomes busy and stressful it often feels like a chore to be constantly refilling your water bottle. While some of you can probably relate to this, how many of you have the problem of insufficient access to drinking water or your drinking water not being good enough?
Many millions of people around the globe have heard throughout their lives that their drinking water isn’t good enough and know the truth as a lived experience. Many individuals and families must plan their lives around ensuring that they and their loved ones have access to safe drinking water. Even locally in Philadelphia, residents can be exposed to severe debilitating drinking water contaminants like lead with limited options to fix the issue or move to a different home. Research has shown that the prevalence of lead in Philadelphia’s drinking water lines is fundamentally tied to the age of the city’s housing and infrastructure.
Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal, inexpensive, malleable, and with valuable commercial, industrial and recreational uses. When lead is self-contained it poses minimal threat to humans. However, over time, lead can break down or erode. When lead is present in small enough particles, it is a potent neurotoxin that can delay development and stunt growing minds. Lead that has leeched into drinking water is a primary source of exposure for children. Over the last 50 years, the shift toward a lead-free drinking water system for vulnerable children in Philadelphia and across the U.S. has resulted in strict legislation regulating allowable amounts of lead exposure in our drinking water as well as protocols for compliance sampling, and in the event of lead detection, special sampling. The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) has worked for decades to limit exposure to lead-contaminated drinking water to under the 15 parts per billion (ppb) action level. Due to that effort, there is virtually no detectable lead in the pipes that bring drinking water from fresh water sources to our neighborhoods.
A recent report by Pennsylvania’s Advisory Committee and Task Force on Lead Exposure concluded that while the sources of Pennsylvania’s drinking water are not generally lead-contaminated, the transportation network, i.e., water service lines that delivers water to residential homes does have the potential for contamination. Drinking water must pass through a series of piping, fixtures, and fittings, once the service line branches away from the utility system distribution pipe and reaches the household. If lead-scale precipitates away from the service line, it is possible for a resident to consume these lead particles. Lead Service Line (LSL) replacement is triggered when monitoring reveals that the water at the tap exceeds the lead action level of 15 ppb. The process for remediating a water distribution line that has verified lead content in excess of the reported guidelines can create an unexpected and expensive burden for a resident to fix. However, certain factors can reliably identify areas that are likely to have LSLs.
In a national survey, American Water Works Association estimated that 160,000 leaded service lines exist in Pennsylvania. It is difficult to determine an actual number and their exact locations, but it is likely that this is an underestimate due to the parameters of the survey. Vulnerabilities of this scale necessitate an in-depth analysis into effective ways to screen all children for lead exposure to prevent adverse health effects and how comorbidities (the presence of two or more diseases or medical conditions in a patient) related to lead exposure can be utilized to identify areas of high risk. To address this need, my project aimed to quantify the most effective ways to target areas with LSLs and reduce the lead concentration of drinking water to meet the goal of eliminating lead exposure in children. I created a hazard risk-categorization map of vulnerable areas, scaled from 1 (lowest risk) to 10 (highest risk), combining various environmental and health risk factors that have historically been indicative of wide-spread lead exposure.
This Leaded Service Line Vulnerability Index (LSL-VI) aims to provide a useful resource for residents as homebuyers or renters to stay adequately informed of the risk they may incur. “Environmental” risk vulnerabilities include physical and chemical exposure from lead due to housing build, location of property, and date of construction. “Health-risk” vulnerabilities include the various comorbidities and demographic-specific factors that, in combination, increase likelihood of exposure to adverse housing conditions and lead exposure. Sociodemographic factors associated with higher blood lead levels in children were non-Hispanic black race/ethnicity, low income, and household-type. For leaded service line exposures, data were obtained from a report created by Temple University that assessed lead risk based on strong indicators like pipe diameter and key buildings descriptors from 1900-1946. All Environmental and Health-risk factors were collected from publicly accessible census-data gathered from the online data mapping tool, PolicyMap.
The neighborhoods with the lowest levels of vulnerability to LSLs were located at the border of Philadelphia County whereas the neighborhoods with an increased vulnerability to LSLs clustered together in North Philadelphia. The neighborhoods of lowest risk aligned with higher median income, overall positive child opportunity outlooks, and lower risk of exposure to lead via LSLs in homes built prior to 1939 whereas the opposite was true of higher risk areas. All neighborhoods had some level of risk.
Although today, many laws have been implemented requiring these sources of environmental lead to be mitigated or made lead-free, lead’s presence is still very much here in our city as a legacy pollutant. My aim was to give residents the knowledge and control to create a better drinking water experience for themselves and their families.
Jazmin Ricks graduated from Vanderbilt University’s BA program in Medicine, Health, and Society (MHS) in 2016 and from the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Public Health (Environmental Health) program in 2021. Jazmin’s professional interests revolve around the field of Environmental Epidemiology and the effect that physical, biological, and chemical factors can have on the public’s health. As a Program Coordinator at The Water Center, Jazmin supports the aims of the Director of Programs and Applied Research and oversees the center’s applied research and programming efforts. Overall, Jazmin seeks to promote water equity and quality as well as advance environmental justice for all Pennsylvanians.
The unofficial end to summer is upon us and as we round the corner heading into Labor Day weekend, perhaps you will be interested in reading this post about the brain-eating amoeba that lives and lurks in our waterways, as told to you by 17-yr. old Janelle Fletcher, or Nelly, as her friends call her, “a fan of horror, thriller, and old scary movies,” which is probably why Naegleria fowleri appeals to her! Warning: the following is not for the faint of heart. Happy swimming.
Studying the Brain-Eating Amoeba
by Janelle Fletcher
On August 2, 2020, Tanner Lake Wall, a thirteen year old boy from Palatka, Florida died after contracting an extremely rare and mostly water-based amoeba which triggered a disease known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis, or PAM, a brain infection that causes swelling of the brain and destruction of the brain and meningeal tissues, generally resulting in coma and death within 10 days after infection. PAM is clinically similar to bacterial meningitis so the chances of being properly diagnosed with the disease are slim, lowering the already tiny chance of surviving the infection, and that, unfortunately, is what happened to poor Tanner. According to the CDC, most people who contract the disease do not survive: “Only 4 people in the U.S out of 148 have survived infection from 1962 to 2019.” This means the brain-eating amoeba has a fatality rate of 97%.
With such terrible survival rates, it’s important to be informed. What, exactly, is a brain-eating amoeba? How do you know when you have one? And how do you prevent infection?
Naegleria fowleri, known as the brain-eating amoeba, is a free standing amoeba that does not need a human or animal host to complete its life cycles. Originally discovered in Australia in 1965, it is believed to have evolved over time in the U.S. although from 2009 to 2018, only 34 cases have been reported. As a small parasite, Naegleria fowleri travels up the olfactory nerve, one of the 12 cranial nerves leading straight to the brain, where it then takes up residence. Usually this parasite eats bacteria, but when swept up into the human body, it uses the olfactory nerve like a trail to the brain which then becomes its food source. As it begins munching on brain tissue, the human body sends white blood cells to fight the intruder and in response, the brain swells and eventually runs out of space inside the skull. Most often, the person dies before being diagnosed. While it’s very rare to get this type of infection, there is also no good treatment for it.
Interestingly, 37 of the 148 known cases of Naegleria fowleri originated in Florida which is understandable when you see how the amoeba breeds. Naegleria fowleri can be found in warm still waters — the ameoba becomes dormant in cold water — such as mud puddles, slow flowing rivers, untreated swimming pools, even in soil, and can survive in waters as hot as 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Water- based activities such as swimming, diving, water skiing — where water might be forced into the nose — and other water sports only increase the chance of being infected, especially in the months of July, August, and September.
Problematically, as symptoms related to climate change increase and small bodies of water lay dormant for longer periods of time on hotter days without recharge, incidences of Naegleria Fowleri could be on the rise. If you experience symptoms within 2 to 15 days after doing water-related activities in potentially infectious water, you may have contracted the disease. Symptoms may include: fever, headache, nausea, or vomiting, and later, stiff neck, confusion, lack of attention, loss of balance, hallucinations and sometimes seizures. Death generally follows five days after the last symptoms appeared. Studies also show that Naegleria Fowleri is attracted by the chemicals secreted by the nerve cells of the olfactory nerve which is how they end up in the frontal lobe of the brain. There are some drugs able to kill the amoeba in test tubes, but when treated with these drugs, very few patients survive the ordeal.
But how can we keep this from happening? As a public health intern, I would want to first figure out how or why people got infected with the parasite and work to prevent it from happening again. If participation in water sports increases risk of exposure, I would advise people to not swim in waters they are uncertain of during summer months, especially when there has been very little rain. Then I would promote proper cleaning of the nose after water sports and water-related activities. Naegleria fowleri is not contagious and cannot be contracted by drinking contaminated water; it only enters the body through the olfactory nerve. And last but not least, I would spread awareness because not many people know about this tragic disease.
To prevent infection, avoid water sports in warm, still water during the months from July to September; do not stir up mud while doing certain activities; and properly clean your nostrils, not using tap water but distilled water. Though the brain eating amoeba is very rare, I’d still be cautious of water and clean my nose properly after playing in the water because who knows? You’ll be prepared for the worst if you ever feel yourself ill with a headache turning into a stiff neck…
Hi my name is Janelle. I’m a 17 year old senior from Philadelphia who loves to study different diseases and wants to know about them. I love to watch anime, teach, learn, read, and listen to music. I’m a fan of horror, thriller, and old scary movies. And I’m going to be a researcher in the medical field as well as a doctor.
Ewoma is a Geographer, Environmentalist, Blogger & Podcaster on environmental awareness, issues and concerns. She has a blog on which she writes regularly about the environment. The Green Code: Invest In The Matters Of The Environment is a newsletter she writes on a monthly basis about environmental trends. Her podcast titled: Your Environment Matters By Ewoma Okah-Avae can be heard on Google, Spotify, Apple, Anchor, Breaker and a host of others. Please enjoy this blog post by Ewoma.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of marine toxic waste plastic pollution estimated to be 1.6 million square kilometers, twice the size of Texas and three times the size of France! As my writer friend put it, “it’s another continent on its own!” One wonders how there can be so much waste to constitute the size of almost a continent? Well, what else do we expect to gain from years of accumulated plastic pollution? This is one of the consequences of inadequate solid waste management practices impacting our oceans.The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or GPGP as it is called, is situated halfway between the states of Hawaii and California in the United States. An estimated 1.15-2.41 million metric tonnes of plastic waste enters the oceans every year from rivers, streams, drainage canals and beaches, resulting in about 1.8 trillion floating plastic pieces some of which have formed the GPGP.
But before we look at the effects of plastic pollution on our oceans, we need a quick exposé on the importance of oceans: oceans are a natural carbon sink, grabbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to use in the process of photosynthesis by plants living in the sea and acting as a major storage system for carbon dioxide. A carbon sink is any reservoir, natural or otherwise, which accumulates and stores carbon compounds for indefinite periods of time. Oceans are considered to be the main natural carbon sink apart from vegetation and forest cover on land, absorbing approximately 50% of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere. Plankton, coral reefs, algae, fish and several other photosynthetic bacteria contribute largely to this extraction of carbon, helping to lower drastically the concentration of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
We can’t overemphasize the importance of oceans especially when it comes to mitigating the effects of global warming and climate change, helping to lower or even eradicate the load of carbon emissions which human activities introduce with more ferocity each year into the environment. If these natural carbon stores or sinks are damaged by plastic pollution, there’s no doubt that the natural ability of this ecological wonder to store carbon will be hampered. If the ocean could no longer store carbon, climate change would accelerate exponentially.
The extent of plastics pollution in the GPGP is enormous. The main pollutant is called the Persistent Bio-accumulative Toxic Chemical present in plastics, otherwise known as PBT. Often plastic pollutants enter the oceans through rivers and other tributaries where over time due to ocean currents, heat, and salinity, they are broken down into microplastics in the range between 0.05-0.5cm in size. Others are meso plastics between 0.5-5cm; macro plastics between 5-50cm, and mega plastics which are 50cm and above in actual size. The majority of plastics retrieved were made up of hard plastic called polyethylene (PE) or another one called polypropylene (PP).
Derelict fishing gear which includes nets and ropes, partially ranging in size from small fragments to larger objects and meter-sized fishing nets are responsible for about 46% of the total mass of plastics waste which is constantly breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. Abandoned fishing nets, known as ghost nets, often strangle marine animals such as fish, dolphins, and sea turtles as as they migrate through waters where they often meet a gruesome death. Studies have revealed that about 700 species have encountered marine debris and 92% of these debris are plastic wastes. These animals often mistake small microplastics for food and ingest them, ultimately dying from their inability to digest the plastic. In addition to marine health, there are myriad other health and economic implications and challenges for humans. There is no question that the amount of plastics pollutants present in the oceans poses a constant threat to aquatic and human life and the ability of the oceans to maintain equilibrium.
If we are to survive as a species, we need to take serious steps to reduce pollution in our water ecosystems; it’s not enough to just look on and do nothing. Some companies like The Ocean Clean Up project are working hard to ameliorate plastics in our oceans, but we also need governments, corporations and stakeholders to rise up and make their voices heard in order to ensure that plastic pollution is reduced to the barest minimum until it is eventually eradicated altogether. Strict measures to effectively dispose and manage solid wastes should be put in place, especially in coastal areas surrounded by beaches. Recycling activities should be introduced into these communities if they don’t already exist, and should be strictly adhered to in order to reduce plastic waste entering our rivers and oceans. It’s time we all do our part.
También La Lluvia (Even the Rain) (2000), directed by Icíar Bollaín, tells the story of a small film crew making a movie about Christopher Columbus’ landing in the New World and the effect Spain’s arrival had on the indigenous Indian population. The movie crew travels to the Andes Mountains in Bolivia where they find the extras needed to shoot the movie. Never mind that these Indians are mountain dwellers and Columbus’s Indians were coastal dwellers, the producers say — Columbus landed in what is now the Bahamas — since no one will know the difference; they budget is tight and the extras will work for $2/day. The film brilliantly juxtaposes the colonialism of imperial Spain in 1511 with the privatization of Bolivia’s water in the year 2000.
At the time of the crews’ arrival, the locals were enmeshed in a water war over the privatization of the Cochabamba water utilities, known as the Cochabamba Water War of 2000. Bolivia had been under military rule for two decades until 1982 when it transitioned to a democratic government. However, the country remains very poor until this day and when the World Bank stepped in with the offer of a loan in the late 1990s, the government of Bolivia agreed to privatize their water by selling Bolivia’s water rights to the multinational Bechtel Corporation to pay back the loan.
However, the natives, who had hand-dug wells to provide water for their communities, had other plans. When Bechtel padlocked the wells, denying the locals access to water while simultaneously raising the price on that water approximately 300%, things looked bleak for the Indians. As a subsistence population that had very few opportunities to earn money, this may as well have been a death sentence.
But never underestimate the power of a large group of people bent on positive social change. After three days of protests, the government of Bolivia rescinded the contract and the indigenous population was able to retrieve one of life’s basic necessities.
The movie proceeds on parallel tracks with the injustices of colonization by Columbus and his men in 1511 overlain with the injustices of an international corporation in 2000, one more concerned with taking control of The Commons to increase its own usurious profits than with the health and welfare of the people. In Columbus’s day, the indigenous peoples were forced into slavery to find gold to fund the Spanish Empire’s unquenchable thirst for lands, power, and global dominance or risk losing lives and limbs. In 2000, the indigenous peoples were being forced to pay for water resources at exorbitant prices — up to half a year’s salary just for access to water — resources that should be available to all in order to fund Bolivian debt, once again moving society forward on the backs of its poorest members.
También La Lluvia received three Goya Awards, one of which was for Iglesias’ musical score. Established in 1987, Goya Awards are much like the Academy Awards, honoring the best of Spanish film making each year.
For the movie, for the music, and for the reminder that some things, especially water, should not come with a price tag, watch También la Lluvia.
También La Lluvia is streaming on Netflix and also available (with commentary) on Youtube for free.
or Thirteen Tips for Beating Back Death — Stick Optional
I woke up the other day with a Blood Sweat and Tears song, When I Die, in my head, one of those songs from childhood that stick with you like mice to a glue trap so, of course, I went to Youtube to listen, dancing around the kitchen while waiting for the coffee to brew as the cats looked on with mild interest and the dog, used to my morning dance routines, rolled his eyes and laid down on his bed, waiting for the noise to subside. Why the sudden preoccupation with death? Well, I just celebrated a birthday, one of the aughts, and no, I’m not going to tell you which, not that you can’t figure it out from one google search or other. If nothing else, aughts are a great reason to take stock of your life.
Now I’m not trying to be morbid, but I think we should all take a page from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying and cast a long hard look at our own mortality, i.e., death. The Buddhists believe that only in looking at our own death can we live a good life, but I can’t even write the word death with ease. So I turn to music, and as death songs go, the Blood Sweat and Tears song is great one: upbeat, positive, we’re all going to go so we may as well have a good backbeat in our heads while doing it kind of song.
The day before I woke up with the Leon Helm song, When I Go Away, another classic.
Rather than think all these death songs are a shout out from my subconscious to pack my bags cause the reaper’s a’ comin’, I think it’s a clarion call to being present and living each moment to the fullest because, if the physicists, Buddhists, and Jeff Buckley are to be believed, all we have is this moment.
So here are my thirteen tips for, what? Beating back death? Living your best life? Sustaining happiness? Getting rich? Being content? How about all of the above and in no particular order.
Write your morning pages. A la Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way, I write some morning pages every day. Out with the old, in with the new as Julia says.
Ask yourself at least one hard question every day — and answer it.
Laugh — a lot and with abandon.
Move your body. Dance, jump, hike, bike, do whatever you like, but move it, baby.
Be grateful. Everything matters. Not just dogs or cats or black lives or blue lives or conserving farmland, or reducing plastic waste, but EVERYTHING matters. Be grateful for it all, even the crappy stuff, because that’s where the lessons are and also what makes you like tempered glass — practically shatterproof.
Hugs. Hugs are a superior form of communication, like a big security blanket, providing warmth and comfort without the need to plug it in. Give and receive hugs every day, pets included. You can learn a lot about a person from hugging them. My friend Monical likes to hug on the left side. She calls it heart-to-heart hugs. I love this.
Pay it forward. This will help you as much as the person being helped even if you never even meet that person or know a single thing about them. Trust me on this one.
Live life wide open. That means being vulnerable. If this scares you, suck it up. The only way to live life is with honesty, integrity and vulnerability, otherwise you are just going through the motions.
Be like water. Drink it, conserve it, and protect it. Go with the flow. When you capture it in plastic bottles that one day end up in the ocean it somehow ruins everything. You’re made up of 72% water. Best to keep it clean out there so you can keep it clean in here.
Breathe. Just breathe.
And that’s it, my best tips for living your best life in the best possible mind, body, spirit combination/alignment/state of mind. You’re probably already doing half the stuff anyway so just amp it up a bit before time’s up.
JK. Time’s an illusion plus matter is neither created nor destroyed. Your physical body is like one of those cool ice sculptures at a fancy Asian restaurant. Odds are your death transition is just going to be another version of you — like water transitioning from ice to liquid — so don’t get your drawers all up in a bunch worrying about it and go live your best life.