Yesterday I watched the live video feed of a Global Health working session at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. (The press can’t attend the actual working sessions, so we had to sit and watch from the press room.) A bit of background – at the CGI Annual Meetings, government, corporate, and NGO leaders get together to discuss major world issues and figure out ways to tackle them. Each day they break out into working sessions, each one devoted to one of this year’s four focus areas: Poverty Alleviation, Energy and Climate Change, Education, and Global Health. This particular Global Health working session was entitled “Healthy Transitions for Adolescent Girls,” which immediately jumped out at me as a topic of great interest, both personally and for folks at Feministe.
Archive for the 'health' Category
This morning I woke up far earlier than usual (6AM!) to get up to the 8am press meeting at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting. It’s been a really interesting, crazy time so far, starting from when I first arrived. When I came to Monday’s blogger meeting with Bill Clinton, I was surprised at how relaxed the security was for the meeting. Not so today. Getting into the Sheraton meant passing through the highest level of security I’ve ever experienced. This ranged from the no-tech to the highest of the high tech: manual bag search, walking through a sensor that detected the RFID inside of my press badge and instantly displayed my name and picture on a connected laptop, a metal detector, a handheld wand that could detect the RFID in my badge, AND some weird thing that seemed to take both normal pictures and x-ray type body scans. All to be expected given the number of world leaders, politicians, celebrities, and corporate leaders at the event, but still a bit unnerving. Past the doors, security has been pretty tight as well, with the press being carefully corralled and guided away from any mingling with the Important People.
I’ve spent most of my day in the press room with both bloggers and the more traditional media. These groups don’t mix that much. No matter, because it’s been fun to meet all of the other bloggers who are here and attach faces to names and the words they write. I do keep hoping that Amy Goodman or Juan Gonzalez will walk up into the press room, but I don’t think that’s too likely.
Deanna and I liveblogged the Opening Plenary, which was chock full of celebrities, dignitaries, and noble ideas; check the record of the liveblogging for details. Afterwards, I attended the press conference with Lance Armstrong, where he announced the creation of the Livestrong Global Cancer Awareness Campaign as well as details his return to cycling, which he described as another way to raise international awareness of cancer: “While my intention is to train and compete as fiercely as I always have, this time I will gauge victory by how much progress woe make against cancer, a disease that will claim 8 million lives this year alone.”
Afterwards there was lunch (during which I was reminded that I like the idea of roast beef far more than I like the reality of roast beef), followed by the working sessions in which all of the bigwigs who are gathered here get down to business and try to come up with concrete ways to tackle issues of poverty, energy and climate change, education, and global health. I watched and listened to the live feed of the Global Health working session, the theme of which was “Healthy Transitions for Adolescent Girls.” The conversation and discussion that came afterward were fascinating, and I’ll be posting about it shortly. Then, a panel on philanthropy with Bill Clinton and Bill Gates (!), then home. Whew!
Cross-posted at Feministe
Cross-posted at Feministe
Every morning I seem to find some distraction on the Internet that leads to me running out the door far later than I should have left or starting my work day woefully off schedule. Usually the distraction is something like Scramble on Facebook, but this morning’s distraction was enriching and enlightening enough that I don’t feel so bad about running late (and running even later in order to share it with you folks.) A friend of mine (thanks, Eli!) linked to The Story of Stuff, a short documentary on the insidious processes that go into consumption as we know it. The video has been online since December 2007 and has apparently had 2 million viewers so I risk recommending it to a bunch of folks who’ve already seen it, but I hadn’t and I thought it important to share.
Annie Leonard, a scholar who has done many years of research on consumerism, development, sustainability, and environmental health, guides us through the linear process that drives the material economy – extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal – exposing the many moments in the process that are often left out of the big picture but which are often most telling of the damage occurs within each of these steps. I’ve seen and read many things about consumption and its effects on our world, but this movie broke things down in a clearer, more complete and more urgent way than I’ve seen before. Leonard does a good job of bringing to light the environmental, health, labor, globalization and other social justice problems inherent to the system of consumption.
Some of the facts that Leonard cites are truly frightening. One fact that I’d never heard before and found particularly shocking: when talking about the countless toxic chemicals used in production and therefore brought into our homes and our bodies, Leonard says:
Do you know what is the food at the top of the food chain with the highest levels of many toxic contaminants? Human breast milk. That means that we’ve reached a point where the smallest members of our societies – our babies – are getting the highest lifetime dose of toxic chemicals from breast feeding from their mothers. Is that not an incredible violation?
I appreciated that Leonard called this a “violation,” because that’s precisely what it is. We have allowed corporations and complicit governments to violate our very bodies, as well as our environment and countless cultures and communities, simply in order to give us cheaper, more consumable products.* Leonard thankfully goes on to stress that “breast feeding is still best,” but as someone who plans to probably give birth and subsequently breast feed, that fact about the toxicity of breast milk is frightening and enraging. It really does feel like a violation – corporations and the government have allowed this shit to get into me.
Of course, there’s a large degree of agency here – we, primarily meaning Americans and other westerners, have a tremendous responsibility to reject the system of capitalism and consumption that got us into this mess. We need to wake up to the realities of what cheap, easy, and disposable all really mean in the long run – as Leonard says, someone, or more accurately many someones, are paying the real price for all of that cheap crap that many of us in the U.S. can buy easily thanks to our huge privilege relative to the rest of the world. Sometimes the people paying the price are far away and look nothing like (some of) us, but sometimes, as with toxic breast milk, we’re also paying directly and dearly. And whether we pay or someone else pays the immediate and direct costs, when it comes to the destruction of the earth, we’re all most definitely going to pay up sooner rather than later. And therefore we who live in the countries that use and abuse and benefit from the system of consumption the most have an urgent responsibility to do something about it.
Unfortunately, that responsibility and our agency to act on it are both so limited by our lack of information. The true costs of American-style production and consumption were never covered in my schooling, nor are they something that make it into the mainstream media with any depth or sufficiency. It’s easy to go through life just not knowing or even questioning how our actions and our consumption are part of a much larger system with far-reaching effects, and the profiteering corporations are more than happy to keep it that way. In such a dearth of information and truth, resources like this movie are vital and can go a long way towards providing the knowledge people need in order to understand what this culture of consumption is doing to them as individuals, to their communities, to other people, and to the environment.
Of course, it’s hard to figure out what the hell to do after looking at a video like that. I appreciate that the Story of Stuff site provides “10 Little and Big Things You Can Do”, along with a resources page that includes recommended reading and links to NGOs working on these issues.
* Note that for the most part this doesn’t mean “better” products in terms of durability and sustainability; Leonard also states that only 1% of consumer products are still actually in use just six months from the date of purchase, which boggles the mind.