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Dreaming of a Toxic-Free Disney

Center for Health, Environment & Justice

By Mike Schade

Penelope Jagessar Chaffer, calling for a toxic-free Disney. Photo: Gary Du of the Epoch Times

Last Saturday, I stood outside of Disney’s iconic flagship store in Times Square, calling on them to make our dreams come true, by getting poisonous phthalates and vinyl plastic out of children’s school supplies.

I organized the action with Penelope Jagessar Chaffer, a mother of two young children (who also came along for the fun), and director of the fantastic new environmental health documentary, Toxic Baby.

With me and Penelope and other concerned NYC residents were the voices and dreams of more than 65,000 parents and Disney customers, who had signed petitions calling on the company to do what’s right for our children’s health.

Hidden Hazards in Disney School Supplies

It all started with our recent report on toxic school supplies, that I researched and authored this past summer. Our investigation found Disney branded school supplies, like Disney Princess lunchboxes and Spiderman backpacks, loaded with hormone disrupting phthalates, toxic chemicals linked to asthma and early puberty that are getting into our children’s bodies.

The levels of Disney school supplies were off the charts, up to thirty times higher than what’s legal for toys. We couldn’t believe it!

The report led to massive press coverage across the country and inspired Lori Alper, a mother of three school-aged boys from Bedford, Massachusetts, to launch a petition on Change.org calling on Disney to eliminate these harmful chemicals. MomsRising.org joined in the campaign and also posted the petition on their site.

Since launching the petition, Change.org and MomsRising.org together have mobilized more than 65,000 parents to call on Disney to make our dreams come true and get these dangerous substances out of our lunchboxes and backpacks once and for all.

Unfortunately, Disney has ignored these protests and calls, so we knew we had to ramp up the pressure.

Dreaming of a toxic-free Disney in Times Square

So last Saturday, braving the cold NYC weather, we bundled up with our box full of petitions to deliver them to Disney’s flagship store in NYC's Times Square.

We passed out flyers to customers walking in and out of the store, as well as tourists that were strolling by. Many were shocked to discover Disney sells school supplies laced with chemicals that have been linked to asthma, birth defects and ADHD.

We held signs that read, “Disney: Make Our Dreams Come True—Dump Your Toxic Lunchboxes.” After educating hundreds of tourists and customers, we walked into the store, asked to speak to the store manager, and attempted to deliver our box full of petitions, along with this letter. The store manager unfortunately refused our petitions, directing us to talk to the corporate headquarters, but that was OK. We knew our message had been delivered.

As we were delivering our petitions in NYC, hundreds of miles away, Lori Alper and the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow were doing the very same at a Disney store outside of Boston, which you can read about in this great post by Lori.

In conjunction with these actions, we and our allies at MomsRising.org also launched a social media campaign calling on Disney to address our concerns. The response to this has been amazing. Within only a few days of launching this campaign, it’s been shared by more than 1,600 people across the country.

Help us keep up the momentum!

Today is of course “Cyber Monday”—so join us online in calling on Disney to make our dreams come true—by sharing this post with your friends on Facebook and Twitter today.

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This post originally appeared on CHEJ’s Backyard Talk blog.

 

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The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.

"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

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The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.

"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."

Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.

Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.

If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."

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