COVID-19 is having disproportionate impacts on our nation's two million farmworkers, who as essential workers continue to toil in the fields despite numerous deadly outbreaks and no federal COVID-related workplace protections.
A Dangerous Regulatory Rollback<p>One key way the Biden Administration can start to correct the course is by enforcing and safeguarding the Worker Protection Standard (WPS), the main federal regulation that protects workers from pesticide exposure. Pesticide exposure weakens the respiratory, immune, and nervous systems — exacerbating farmworkers' COVID-19 risks.</p><p>Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump Administration made various efforts to weaken or eliminate key provisions of the WPS, which had been revised and improved at the end of the Obama Administration. The WPS is an outlier in occupational health standards – because pesticides, although they are a workplace hazard, are regulated by the EPA, instead of by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which covers occupational health in every other industry. This is just one example of how farmworkers are exempted from basic protections afforded to other workers.</p><p><span></span>Many of the Trump Administration's efforts to weaken the WPS were thwarted by advocacy and litigation by environmental and farmworker groups. However, one of the Trump Administration's proposed rollbacks of the WPS remains: the gutting of the Application Exclusion Zone (AEZ), which required pesticide handlers to stop applying pesticides if someone is near the area being sprayed. If the final Trump AEZ rule goes into effect, farmworkers in neighboring fields, children in school playgrounds or in their backyards, and rural residents going about their day may be in close proximity to where pesticides are being sprayed, as long as they're not on the same property, without any requirement that the applicator suspend spraying. <a href="https://www.usgs.gov/centers/oki-water/science/pesticides?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects" target="_blank">More than 1 billion pounds</a> of pesticides, designed to kill insects, weeds, and other pests, are applied to U.S. agricultural fields every year. In addition to acute poisonings, pesticides are also associated with <a href="https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-worker-safety/pesticide-poisoning-handbook-section-v-chronic-effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">long-term health harms</a> including various cancers, developmental and reproductive harm, and neurological damage, for both farmworkers and community members who are chronically exposed to pesticides.</p><p>In December 2020, Farmworker Justice and Earthjustice, acting on behalf of a coalition of groups including Migrant Clinicians Network, <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/groups-challenge-epas-move-to-gut-pesticide-spraying-safeguards?fbclid=IwAR3Od3YPk0BSdwxys27EQkc8PKOufVywlPX8g0i852iJ-PSBkqYPW4ZbB4g" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">sued the EPA to stop these changes</a>. An injunction is currently in place preventing the changes from being implemented as the case proceeds – but the Biden Administration has a responsibility to protect these workers, rather than rely on courts. And the issue of pesticide drift on nearby properties is just one of the many challenges that farmworkers face when it comes to pesticide exposure.</p>
An Opportunity to Right Wrongs<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYyOTExMS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjM2ODAzM30.szhrn2C7P9UtiBUNzlPOl4OPhcQdCAak_QA2ThsW0mQ/img.png?width=980" id="17a13" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="88f88bae616b22aae8238fa01dc075ca" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1250" data-height="732" />
Pesticide spray in Utah. Pesticide exposure is associated with various cancers, developmental and reproductive harm, and neurological damage. Aqua Mechanical / Flickr<p>These hard-working farmworkers, upon whom we all depend for the food we eat, deserve immediate and effective protections. The new Administration has a unique opportunity to take advantage of renewed public understanding of the exploitation of farmworkers, to provide long-overdue workplace protections to keep essential workers safe, and to transform our food systems to ensure healthy workplaces, neighborhoods, and the environment, by:</p><ul><li>Rejecting the Trump Administration's attempt to weaken the Application Exclusion Zone requirements;</li><li>Increasing the monitoring and enforcement of the WPS, including, but not limited to, provisions such as the minimum age of 18 for applying pesticides, adequate training for workers in a language that they understand, and worker access to information about pesticides being applied;</li><li>Requiring drift protections on pesticide labels for drift-prone pesticides, to better protect workers, bystanders, and communities;</li><li>Requiring that all pesticide label instructions be written in Spanish and/or other languages spoken by workers so they have the information they need to protect themselves and their families;</li><li>Banning highly toxic pesticides such as chlorpyrifos;</li><li>Using accurate scientific methods for determining pesticide risk, including taking into account farmworkers' potential long-term exposure, when making determinations about pesticide safety and the registration of pesticide products;</li><li>Including farmworkers and farmworker-serving organizations as key stakeholders at EPA, with a focus on environmental justice.</li></ul><p>These are just some of the essential steps the new administration can take to protect farmworkers from the extreme hazards of their workplaces. Much more needs to be done about the myriad factors that negatively impact farmworker health, like poverty, immigration status, language barriers, and fear of retaliation.</p><p>COVID-19 has shown that a strong public health system and a functional food system require basic health and human rights for all of our neighbors, especially those typically left out. The Biden Administration has a duty and an opportunity to improve our systems – and consequently improve our nation's health and well-being.</p><p><em>Amy K. Liebman is Director of Environmental and Occupational Health for </em><a href="http://www.migrantclinician.org/" target="_blank"><em>Migrant Clinicians Network</em></a><em>, a nonprofit focused on creating practical solutions at the intersection of vulnerability, migration, and health. </em></p><p><em>Iris Figueroa is the Director of Economic and Environmental Justice for </em><a href="http://www.farmworkerjustice.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Farmworker Justice</em></a><em>, a nonprofit that seeks to empower migrant and seasonal farmworkers to improve their living and working conditions, immigration status, health, occupational safety, and access to justice.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/farmworkers-deserve-pesticide-protections-2650404972/" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em></p>
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Tens of thousands of children in Indonesia and Malaysia work to harvest the palm oil that ends up in several beloved Western snacks, including Girl Scout cookies.
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Residential solar energy companies are helping more and more homeowners upgrade their properties to clean energy sources. Solar energy companies can equip you with the technology you need to harness the amazing power of the sun and reduce your need for fossil fuels. In this article, we'll review some of the most trustworthy providers and installers of solar power.
Our picks for the best solar companies
The first step in the process is researching some of the top companies in the solar industry. Here are the ones that stood out in our research.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
How we chose the best solar energy companies
How did we determine which solar power companies to recommend?
To begin with, we took a deep dive into each company's offerings, assessing them for the following criteria:
- Range of services offered
- Pricing/affordability and financing options
- Extent of service area
- Solar panel efficiency
- Temperature coefficient (e.g., how much high temperatures affect efficiency)
Additionally, we weighed membership and certification by professional associations like the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Affiliation with these groups is a good indicator that a solar energy company is reputable, and that their work is up to the highest standards within the industry.
The best solar energy companies
schmidt-z / Getty Images
With these criteria in mind, consider our picks for the best solar panel providers and installers in the industry.
If you're looking for a company that can walk you through the process of upgrading to solar power for an easy and convenient experience, look no further than to SunPower. The company offers:
- A "design studio" app, allowing you to safely and seamlessly design your own solar power system so that you can see a visual of what the finished product will look like once installed.
- Online calculators that make it easy for you to determine about how much electricity you will save once you upgrade to solar panels.
- Virtual consultations, allowing you to chat one-on-one with a solar power expert and to ask any questions you might have.
SunPower offers leading solar panels and energy storage technology to homeowners across dozens of states. And, they are also the preferred solar partner of many major businesses, including Walmart, FedEx, and Lowes.
Why buy: SunPower is a reliable solar energy company with an impressive tech portfolio and an extremely easy, intuitive process.
Upgrading to solar power can seem a little intimidating, but SunRun is out to bring simplicity. Their approach makes it extremely straightforward to select a custom solar energy plan for your household. Here's what to know about SunRun:
- They offer virtual consultations with solar energy experts, making it simple to explore your options and determine which solar set-up is right for your home energy needs.
- Each system they design is completely customized to address the customer's needs. SunRun doesn't do "one size fits all" solar equipment options.
- Their guarantee, the best in the industry, offers extraordinary peace of mind that your solar system will prove durable and reliable.
- SunRun also leads in terms of flexible financing options, making solar power accessible and affordable.
Why buy: With SunRun, the name of the game is customization. This is one of the best solar installation companies to turn to for solar power solutions that are truly made with you in mind.
You probably associate Tesla with their electric vehicles, but did you know that the company also produces high-efficiency solar panels? Depending on your needs and your budget, Tesla can hook you up with an array of solar panels or even a solar roof, making it easy to cut electricity costs and power your home via the sun's vital energy.
Some fast facts about choosing solar power from Tesla:
- They offer a price match guarantee and affordable financing options.
- Their advanced solar panel technology offers a low profile, a sleek style, and long-term durability.
- Home battery backups allow you to save solar power and then access it on demand, whenever you need it.
Why buy: Tesla offers sophisticated solar products for what the company claims is the lowest price of any national provider, which they back with a price-match guarantee. Plus, all of their solar panels come with a solid 25-year performance guarantee.
LG is another well-known tech company that is also a leader in solar energy. Some of their solar panels use a bifacial solar module that captures energy from two directions to increase their efficiency. While they are a solar panel manufacturer, they can also help you with the installation process by finding an LG Pro installer in your area.
- They offer an online "solar concierge" service that allows you to evaluate your home energy needs and to compare different options for going solar.
- LG offers a 25-year warranty, not only on their technology but also on the work their of their solar installers.
- They offer a range of solar panels and supporting products, and they supply you with plenty of information to make a fully informed choice.
Why buy: LG is a company that knows technological innovation. Their award-winning solar energy products are reliably efficient, well-priced, and designed for maximum efficiency.
Panasonic has one of the most impressive tech portfolios in the solar energy industry. Their products boast some of the highest conversion efficiency rates, along with the lowest degradation rates. And they back everything with a generous warranty.
Some additional reasons to choose Panasonic:
- They offer a range of solar panels to choose from. With Panasonic, you'll find that you have plenty of options.
- They also provide a lot of great online support and consumer education, ensuring you'll get the most out of your solar technology.
Why buy: Panasonic is a solar panel company with products that are tough to beat. Both their pricing and warranties are very appealing, and their HIT high-performance solar panels offer some of the best power conversion rates of any product.
Vivint is a company that offers a full spectrum of services, including solar power consultation, design, and installation. A few reasons why homeowners trust their solar power needs to the Vivint team:
- Everything Vivint does is customized. They tailor everything to fit your roof and to help you achieve your home energy goals.
- They make the entire process simple, handling all of the little details for you. This includes securing permits, filing the right paperwork, etc.
- They emphasize safety, using only the highest caliber of solar panels and backing everything with a world-class warranty.
Why buy: Vivint is noteworthy for their focus on customization, their commitment to safety, and their one-stop-shop solar power solutions. In addition to solar panel installation, they also offer other specialized technology, including solar-powered electric vehicle chargers.
Enphase is another company that stands out, both for their robust technology as well as for their commitment to customization. Their microinverter technology makes their solar system safer by reducing the likelihood of arc fault fires.
- They design their solar technology with safety in mind, including fire safeguards that other companies can't match.
- Their solar panels are built for durability and can hold up even through the most extreme kinds of weather.
- Enphase uses smart technology to update itself; all you need to do is connect it to your home Internet.
- They also have one of the best apps in the solar industry, making it simple to monitor your home energy use.
Why buy: Enphase is a company of innovators, and their solar portfolio has a lot to offer. Their system is also modular, meaning you can easily add more panels to your system as you need them.
This solar power provider has won recognition not just for their excellent technology, but also for their sincere commitment to sustainability and to ecological stewardship. And don't let the name throw you off: Though Canadian Solar is based in Canada, they provide solar power solutions in the U.S. and other countries.
Some additional facts about Canadian Solar:
- They offer a wide range of products, from energy converters to storage solutions.
- Their solar panels boast exceedingly high energy efficiency rates.
- Canadian Solar has won a number of awards for its first-class innovations, and one of their products even set a world record for conversion efficiency in 2020.
Why buy: This company has a proven track record of technological excellence, plus a real commitment to ecological stewardship. They also closely monitor their supply chain to ensure that no goods or materials used in their products come from prohibited forms of labor.
First Solar boasts an impressive track record of advocacy for solar power and for renewable energy sources. And, thankfully, they back their advocacy with some excellent solar technologies.
A few reasons to choose First Solar solar panels:
- Their technology offers an outstanding temperature coefficient, meaning they won't lose performance during high temperatures.
- Their solar cells are among the most reliable and most efficient in the clean energy sector.
- First Solar also offers a lot of post-purchase, post-installation help, as needed.
Why buy: First Solar is a great option for anyone who's serious about renewable energy, and who wants the best performance from their solar panels.
The biggest drawback to Go Solar is that, right now, their work is limited to just a few states. But if you happen to live in that part of the country, you're in luck. Go Solar's panels are uniquely calibrated to take advantage of the western region's abundant sunlight. Some additional reasons to pick Go Solar include:
- They offer free home solar assessments.
- They custom-design solar systems to meet the needs of your home.
- They have some of the most trusted installers in the solar power industry.
Why buy: For solar solutions that are tailored to the climate of the American West, definitely consider Go Solar. Plus, with their Give Solar International partnership, they give an equivalent solar panel system to a family in Uganda for each system sold.
How does a solar energy system work?
schmidt-z / Getty Images
As you explore the different options for embracing solar power, it may be helpful to have a baseline understanding of how solar energy systems actually function.
Generally speaking, solar energy systems involve solar panels installed on your roof. These panels absorb the sun's energy, storing it in what are known as photovoltaic cells. These cells convert the solar energy into direct current (DC) energy, then use an inverter to convert that DC energy into alternate current (AC) electricity. AC electricity is what you need to power all your home appliances.
It's important to note that, before you purchase solar panels, it's worthwhile to meet with a solar energy consultant who can tell you more about how many panels your home will require, and also to let you know how those panels should be ideally positioned on the roof.
One more note: If you're concerned about the affordability of solar power, it's important to remember that most solar energy companies provide a host of options, including flexible financing and solar lease options for a system rather than purchase it outright. As you talk with different solar energy companies, don't hesitate to inquire about these leasing and financing options.
Benefits of solar energy
Installing solar panels on your home can yield a number of benefits. Here are just a few examples.
One of the main reasons why homeowners choose to install solar cells is that it allows them to truly embrace clean energy sources. Rather than depend on fossil fuels and power plants, you can power your home with renewable energy that comes straight from the sun. This can be a highly effective way to minimize your environmental footprint.
Solar tax credits and rebates
There are a number of ways in which choosing renewable energy can save you money, starting with the fact that there are so many rebates and tax credits available. Essentially, both the federal government and many state governments want to encourage people to "go green" as much as possible, and they will make it worth your while by allowing you to claim these important tax incentives. Some utility companies also offer rebates that can help pay for the upfront costs of solar projects.
Lower electricity bills
Of course, embracing solar power will also help you save money by slashing your electricity bills. Most solar energy companies offer online calculators that allow you to see for yourself how much money you'll save over time, simply by changing to a renewable energy source. There is also an option called a power purchase agreement (PPA) that can allow you to host a solar or renewable energy system from a utility provider in exchange for lowered energy rates. If your solar panel system generates excess energy, the utility will then purchase that energy from you in the form of a net metering credit on your bill.
Make a smart choice about solar power
There are obviously a lot of perks to choosing solar energy for your home. And yet, it can also be a rather daunting process, simply because there are so many solar energy companies to choose from.
Using our guidelines and rankings, start doing your due diligence, seeking the solar power company that's right for you. Remember to look for a company that's well-regarded within the industry and get a consultation before you buy. Always be sure to ask some direct questions about the financing options that are available to you.
Josh Hurst is a journalist, critic, and essayist. He lives in Knoxville, TN, with his wife and three sons. His writing on natural health, nutrition, and supplements has appeared in Health, Shape, and Remedy Review.
On December 4, about 1,600 Rohingya traveled across the Bay of Bengal in seven navy boats from Chattogram to Bhasan Char. Bangladesh plans to move 100,000 families to the island.
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By David Coman-Hidy
The actions of the U.S. meat industry throughout the pandemic have brought to light the true corruption and waste that are inherent within our food system. Despite a new wave of rising COVID-19 cases, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently submitted a proposal to further increase "the maximum slaughter line speed by 25 percent," which was already far too fast and highly dangerous. It has been made evident that the industry will exploit its workers and animals all to boost its profit.
By Kelley Dennings
It's time to talk about something that most of us have been reluctant to face: what to do about the intensifying connection between population gain and environmental loss. A growing body of research shows continued human population growth equates to accelerating species extinction.
By Jenna McGuire
In 2011, a ground-breaking report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on oil pollution in Ogoniland highlighted the devastating impact of the oil industry in the Niger Delta and made concrete recommendations for clean-up measures and immediate support for the region's devastated communities.
By Derrick Z. Jackson
As much as hurricanes Katrina and Maria upended African American and Latinx families, the landfall of the coronavirus brings a gale of another order. This Category 5 of infectious disease packs the power to level communities already battered from environmental, economic, and health injustice. If response and relief efforts fail to adequately factor in existing disparities, the current pandemic threatens a knockout punch to the American Dream.
Them That Have Get the Test<p>While most Americans have been left hanging in collective anxiety over the Trump administration's abominable botching of the preparations needed to make COVID-19 tests widely available, <a href="https://thehill.com/changing-america/enrichment/arts-culture/490427-chris-cuomo-is-the-latest-of-these-prominent-figures" target="_blank">actors,</a> athletes, college presidents such as Harvard's Lawrence Bacow, and politicians such as Kentucky Senator Rand Paul have gotten tested.</p><p>In terms of math, perhaps the most telling case was the Utah Jazz.</p><p>When it was suspected that one Jazz player had coronavirus while in Oklahoma City for a National Basketball Association road game, the state of Oklahoma conducted 58 tests on the team's entire traveling party. At the time, the United States was so short of test kits that state labs were averaging just <a href="https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-did-the-nba-push-through-58-coronavirus-tests-for-the-utah-jazz-when-almost-no-one-else-can-get-them" target="_blank">55 tests<em> per state</em></a> according to the Daily Beast.</p><p>While that testing thankfully helped trigger a national shutdown of spectator sports, music festivals, and business conventions, it also symbolized the divide between the haves and have nots. Many other <a href="https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/coronavirus-kevin-durant-marcus-smart-rudy-gobert-among-nba-players-who-have-been-infected-with-covid-19/" target="_blank">NBA teams</a> were quickly tested through official relationships with top medical centers and private services. An NBA official <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/19/nba-players-celebrities-coronavirus-test-access/" target="_blank">told the Washington Post</a>, "We had, and still have, tests at the ready for our players." The official said that testing was, "One phone call away."</p><p>That level of access rightly angered New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. As he tweeted, "An entire NBA team should NOT get tested for COVID-19 while there are critically ill patients waiting to be <a href="https://twitter.com/NYCMayor/status/1240029424394829829" target="_blank">tested</a>. Tests should not be for the wealthy, but for the sick."</p><p>Or consider the <a href="https://blockclubchicago.org/2020/03/17/hoarders-leave-little-food-for-low-income-and-snap-recipients-who-cant-afford-to-stock-up/" target="_blank">cleaning out</a> of grocery stores in panic buying, a phenomenon that clearly advantages those with <a href="https://nypost.com/2020/03/18/chic-hamptons-food-stores-ransacked-by-the-wealthy-amid-coronavirus-pandemic/" target="_blank">disposable income</a> while leaving empty shelves to the disadvantaged. Ironically, some of those left empty handed are the very farmworkers who picked the vegetables for the cleaned-out shelves.</p><p>In upstate New York, Luis Jimenez, head of the immigrant farmworker group Alianza Agricola, <a href="https://prospect.org/coronavirus/american-farmworkers-essential-but-unprotected/" target="_blank">told</a> The American Prospect magazine and Capital & Main, a California non-profit news organization, "We can't buy food until we get off work, and by then the store shelves are empty — no rice or eggs or meat."</p><p>Selfishness is already on full display in the corporate clamor for bailouts, led by the airline industry's request for <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/18/trump-coronavirus-plan-bailouts/" target="_blank">$50 billion</a>. This is despite the industry being <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/16/opinion/airlines-bailout.html" target="_blank">notorious</a> for throwing free cash on stock buybacks to increase shareholder earnings instead of improving consumer service, worker pay or creating rainy day funds. So far, President Trump has said, "We're going to back the airlines 100 percent."</p>
Who Has Workers’ Backs?<p>There is no such pledge of 100-percent backing for workers who keep America humming with honest, <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/id/38168029/ns/business-careers/t/lowest-paying-jobs-america/#.XnUSo257mfU" target="_blank">humble labor</a>, from cashiers to cleaners in hotels and from farm workers to restaurant servers. Far more needs to be done to take care of these workers who are the backbone of Fortune 500 profits yet are the first to have their backs broken financially in economic crisis.</p><p>The proposed one-time check of up to $3,400 for a family of four does not come close to the <a href="https://livingwage.mit.edu/articles/61-new-living-wage-data-for-now-available-on-the-tool" target="_blank">average monthly living wage</a> of $5,734 in the United States, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Living Wage Calculator. Undocumented workers do not get a check at all. The 60-day foreclosure moratorium for homeowners does not cover America's 40 million renters. That is a huge consideration as close to three quarters of white families <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/09/28/black-and-hispanic-families-are-making-more-money-but-they-still-lag-far-behind-whites/" target="_blank">own homes</a>, while less than half of African American and Latinx families do.</p><p>In another arena<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/14/opinion/coronavirus-pelosi-sick-leave.html" target="_blank"> where the working poor are barely backed at all</a>, only about 20 percent of private-sector workers <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ehDeiDJBCjJublGNOrvwi__oYq2MNxBg/view" target="_blank">are covered</a> in the new coronavirus <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/16/paid-sick-leave-coronavirus-house-bill/" target="_blank">paid sick leave</a> legislation. According to the New York Times, a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/14/opinion/sunday/coronavirus-paid-sick-leave.html" target="_blank">combined 2 million</a> people work at McDonald's, Walmart, Kroger, Subway, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Target, Marriott, Wendy's, and Taco Bell alone and all of them normally lack any paid sick time. In recent days, President Trump has <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-vice-president-pence-members-coronavirus-task-force-press-briefing-4/" target="_blank">praised</a> many such companies for pledging to offer pick-up meals and parking lot space for drive-through virus testing.</p><p>Many of those companies have temporarily covered their public relations flanks by offering two weeks of COVID-19 sick pay. But if coronavirus is anything like the 1918 flu that killed 675,000 Americans in <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/paloma/daily-202/2020/03/26/daily-202-government-experts-warn-of-a-second-wave-of-coronavirus-cases-as-the-health-system-struggles/5e7c543f88e0fa101a752cd1/" target="_blank">three waves</a>, we need permanent paid sick pay to account for future illness. While 75 percent of Americans receive some paid sick days, only 25 percent of fast food workers do, according to the Washington Post. The United States is also the only nation in the developed world with no form of paid family leave. In a 2013 <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/ehsnet/docs/jfp-foodworker-beliefs-working-ill.pdf" target="_blank">survey</a> by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, 60 percent of food workers said they have worked while ill and 43 percent said they came to work because there was no sick leave policy.</p><p>Congressional Republicans steadfastly refuse to consider making paid leaves permanent, even though science says we would all be better off if low-wage workers had these safety nets. Paid family leave is particularly beneficial to low-income mothers, reducing the incidence of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0167629615000533" target="_blank">early birth</a>, low birthweight, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-infantmortality-maternity-leav/paid-maternity-leave-linked-to-lower-infant-mortality-rates-idUSKCN0X51S0" target="_blank">infant mortality</a> and <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29098488" target="_blank">maternal health.</a> It also results in better long-term health for disadvantaged children, with <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/pam.22012" target="_blank">less obesity</a> and attention deficit. One study bluntly said, "Paid maternity leave has particularly large impacts on the children of unmarried and black mothers."</p>
Disparities the Coronavirus Exploits<p>The risk of unequal treatment is embedded in even the seemingly universal "we're-all-in-this-together" advice we are getting to protect ourselves and stop the spread of the coronavirus. One person who sees this clearly is <a href="https://www.michiganradio.org/post/pediatrician-says-poisoned-accurate-description-what-happened-flint-children" target="_blank">Lawrence Reynolds</a>, a pediatrician in Flint, Michigan. He served on the 2016 Michigan task force <a href="https://www.michigan.gov/documents/snyder/FWATF_FINAL_REPORT_21March2016_517805_7.pdf" target="_blank">which determined</a> that the Flint Water Crisis in that <a href="https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/flintcitymichigan" target="_blank">54-percent</a> African American city was "a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction, and environmental injustice."</p><p>Reynolds retired a year ago but was asked by Flint's mayor to be an advisor for COVID-19 care.</p><p>He said he already sees where daily life for disadvantaged people is not being factored into public health advisories. "Take social distancing," he said. "That is much easier to do for a family that owns a single-family home where they can spread out inside the home and have a backyard to get some fresh air in private. That is much harder for people who live in small apartments in buildings where people are always passing each other in the hallways. No one has come up with a strategy as to how those folks are supposed to 'social distance.'"</p><p><a href="https://www.newschool.edu/public-engagement/faculty/ana-baptista/" target="_blank">Ana Baptista</a>, chair of the Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management Program at the New School's Tishman Environment and Design Center, worries about higher rates of COVID-19 among people of color as they are more likely to have jobs that cannot be telecommuted. While 37 percent of Asian Americans and 30 percent of white Americans told the Census they <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/flex2.t01.htm" target="_blank">can work at home</a>, only 20 percent of African Americans and 16 percent of Latinx respondents say they can work at home. Only 9 percent of low-wage workers in the lowest quartile of wage earners say they can <a href="https://www.epi.org/blog/black-and-hispanic-workers-are-much-less-likely-to-be-able-to-work-from-home/" target="_blank">telecommute,</a> compared 62 percent of those in the highest quartile.</p><p>One of those job categories requiring workers on site, of course is hospital and nursing home care. <a href="https://bhw.hrsa.gov/sites/default/files/bhw/nchwa/diversityushealthoccupations.pdf" target="_blank">One-third</a> of nursing, psychiatric and home health aides and a quarter of vocational nurses who work under the supervision of registered nurses and physicians are black, and a quarter of medical assistants are Latinx — well above their share of the general population. Both Baptista and Reynolds rightly point out that current shortages of <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/20/coronavirus-healthworkers-cdcguidelines/" target="_blank">protective gear</a> for our health care and other frontline workers mark not only an unconscionable failure by the federal government in its preparations but also one that will disproportionately affect workers of color.</p><p>Social distancing also has created other ironies for the working poor and communities disproportionately breathing in the particulates of pollution. With retail stores closed, Amazon says it will hire 100,000 people to fill the explosion of online shopping. Reports are <a href="https://prospect.org/coronavirus/unsanitized-dangerous-life-of-amazon-worker/?emci=4a098407-206d-ea11-a94c-00155d03b1e8&emdi=ca334f38-236d-ea11-a94c-00155d03b1e8&ceid=4338874" target="_blank">widespread</a> that the frantic pace of teams moving around each other at warehouses makes it impossible for this army of the working poor to observe the dictum of staying six feet apart.</p><p>Workers at <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-amazon-com-warehou/factbox-coronavirus-cases-reported-at-13-of-amazons-u-s-warehouses-idUSKBN21E07V" target="_blank">more than</a> a dozen<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/03/24/amazon-warehouse-workers-coronavirus-positive/" target="_blank"> Amazon facilities</a> in the U.S. have tested positive for coronavirus, and more than 1,500 workers have signed a petition demanding stepped-up safety measures. In the world of immigrant farmworkers, <a href="https://prospect.org/coronavirus/american-farmworkers-essential-but-unprotected/" target="_blank">Jimenez said</a> living conditions also make social distancing irrelevant. "We live 8 to 10 people in a house, so how would we isolate? Some have their own room, but I know one farm where everyone sleeps in bunk beds in a big room. At work we have to help each other all the time, like when we have to move a cow. You can't do this alone."</p><p>The ramp-up in online commerce also means increased truck traffic. Environmental justice advocates fear that the increased exhaust around Amazon facilities will <a href="https://grist.org/justice/as-amazon-speeds-up-a-warehouse-community-braces-for-a-deadly-combo-air-pollution-and-coronavirus/" target="_blank">drive up</a> air pollution in abutting neighborhoods, increasing illness and vulnerability to COVID-19. A <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/pnas/116/13/6001.full.pdf" target="_blank">landmark study</a> last year found that while white households generate the majority of lung- and heart-damaging fine particulate pollution in the consumption of goods and services in the U.S., African American and Latinx neighborhoods disproportionately breathe it in. That study found that 83,000 premature deaths occur from such commerce.</p><p>"Essentially, all the things we do and all the things we buy are those 80,000 deaths," <a href="https://www.mndaily.com/article/2019/04/n-umn-researchers-find-racial-disparities-in-who-produces-air-pollution-and-who-breathes-it" target="_blank">said</a> study co-author Jason Hill, a biosystems engineering researcher at the University of Minnesota.</p>
Drive – Through Testing – If You Have Wheels<p>Another response that policymakers seem to assume is applicable to everyone is drive-through virus testing. While such drive-through locations seem to have proven effective in South Korea and elsewhere, this diagnostic measure of course requires you to have a car.</p><p>Vehicle ownership is nearly ubiquitous in white America, with 93.5 percent of white households having wheels. But according to the <a href="https://nationalequityatlas.org/indicators/Car_access/By_race~ethnicity:49791/Pittsburgh_City,_PA/false/" target="_blank">National Equity Atlas,</a> Latinx and Native American households are twice as likely as white households to be without a car and African American households are three times as likely to be carless. The percentage of African Americans without a car ranges from around 30 percent to 50 percent in many cities, including Milwaukee, Chicago, <a href="https://nationalequityatlas.org/indicators/Car_access/By_race~ethnicity:49791/Pittsburgh_City,_PA/false/" target="_blank">Pittsburgh,</a> St. Louis, Cleveland, <a href="https://nationalequityatlas.org/indicators/Car_access/By_race~ethnicity:49791/Minneapolis_City,_MN/false/" target="_blank">Minneapolis</a>, <a href="https://nationalequityatlas.org/indicators/Car_access/By_race~ethnicity:49791/Miami_City,_FL/false/" target="_blank">Miami,</a> Atlanta and <a href="https://nationalequityatlas.org/indicators/Car_access/By_race~ethnicity:49791/San_Francisco_City,_CA/false/" target="_blank">San Francisco</a>.</p><p>Compounding the problem, many of these drive-through testing facilities are planned for locations such as Walmart and Target parking lots. But big-box stores are often located outside of urban centers, hard to walk to, and not easily accessible by public transit. Such is the case in Southeast Chicago, said Peggy Salazar, executive director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force. Salazar's group has pushed back against coal ash, manganese dust and lead contamination in neighborhoods squeezed between toxic industries on the Calumet River in Chicago and refineries just over the border in Indiana.</p><p>"It can take me an hour and a half to take public transportation to downtown Chicago," Salazar said. "We're so isolated down here, if you don't have a car, it's tough."</p><p>And, with social distancing, it's not like you can ask a neighbor to give you a lift. In a 2016 column for the Boston Globe, Clayborn Benson, an old friend and founding director of the <a href="http://www.wbhsm.org/about-us/" target="_blank">Wisconsin Black Historical Society</a>, told me he knows of countless African Americans in Milwaukee who "can't get jobs in the suburbs because they can't drive. Even if they can drive, they lose jobs because they can't afford good cars and they break down."</p><p>The COVID-19 crisis gives America an opportunity to avoid another response that breaks down once more along color and class lines to treat the least privileged as expendable. For instance, if the exploding levels of online shopping remain a permanent part of our economy, local and state governments must no longer place warehouses in, and run diesel-spewing trucking routes through, so-called "fenceline communities" <a href="http://www.naacp.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Fumes-Across-the-Fence-Line_NAACP_CATF.pdf" target="_blank">already stewing</a> in pollution. In those communities, respiratory diseases such as asthma are often already off the charts for African Americans and Latinx, putting them at greater risk of severe illness from COVID-19.</p><p>Policymakers must find ways to assure that neighborhoods suffering from food insecurity get security. The lack of quality grocery stores and the oversaturation of fast food chains that <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/11/the-racial-gap-in-fast-food-marketing/382688/" target="_blank">heavily target children</a> with advertising and free toys has already fueled levels of diabetes and obesity higher than those for the white population. Diabetes is another disease COVID-19 can exploit. Dennis Derryck, founder of the Corbin Hill Food Project, which delivers fresh produce to low-income residents in New York City, said the multitude of health issues makes a broader range of people more vulnerable to coronavirus. "We define the elderly in Harlem as easily being 55 because of health disparities," he said.</p><p>Reynolds said we should also change the way we view water. With everyone being told they must constantly wash their hands, many cash-strapped cities that imposed impossible water bills on low-income residents have said they will not shut off anyone's water for the time being. Reynolds thinks this should mark the end of cutoffs, period, saying, "Water is a human right."</p><p>Perhaps most urgently, as medical centers tell patients that they are postponing "non-urgent" care in preparation for skyrocketing COVID-19 emergency treatment, where does that leave African Americans and Latinx, who are <a href="https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/fair-health-survey-viewpoints-about-er-use-for-non-emergency-care-vary-significantly-by-race-age-education-and-income-300078595.html" target="_blank">twice as likely</a> than white Americans to choose emergency rooms for non-emergency care? Will they be disproportionately displaced?</p><p>The NAACP recently issued a <a href="https://live-naacp-site.pantheonsite.io/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Ten-Equity-Considerations-of-the-Coronavirus-COVID-19-Outbreak-in-the-United-States-FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">resource guide</a> pointing out pitfalls for policymakers to avoid so that the nation's response to coronavirus does not exacerbate inequity. Besides access to testing, worker pay, and protecting frontline healthcare workers and those in essential transportation and service industries, the list includes:</p><ul><li>Ensuring access to <a href="https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2020/03/05/many-districts-wont-be-ready-for-remote.html" target="_blank">quality online education</a> even in less-resourced public-school districts during long closures;</li><li>preventing the crisis from becoming an excuse for increased incidence of racist attacks (already true for Asian Americans as President Trump <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/03/20/coronavirus-trump-chinese-virus/" target="_blank">deliberately</a> calls coronavirus the "<a href="https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/national-international/trump-notes-photo-shows-corona-crossed-out-replaced-with-chinese-virus/2247102/" target="_blank">Chinese virus");</a></li><li>halting the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2019/01/31/us-militarized-its-southern-border-once-before-it-didnt-work/" target="_blank">militarization</a> of immigration policies that have already targeted Latinx populations;</li><li>addressing virus exposure risk to inmates who are housed and herded in tight proximity to each other;</li><li>protecting our democracy from being upended by disruptions in Census canvassing, delays in primaries, or <a href="https://www.npr.org/2020/03/16/816092179/as-coronavirus-spreads-states-scramble-to-reassure-public-that-voting-is-safe" target="_blank">relocating</a> voting away from senior citizen centers and their reliable, but vulnerable voters.</li></ul><p>The Center for American Progress and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University also <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2020/03/19/481962/coronavirus-pandemic-racial-wealth-gap/" target="_blank">called upon</a> the nation to attend to the multiple layers of inequities, urging a moratorium on evictions, foreclosures, penalties on late car payments and credit card debt, and covering all workers with paid sick and family leave. In making the call, the center said, "It's important to note that these communities lack wealth not because of individual choices but instead due to 400 years of collective harms by federal, state, and local governments compounding <a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-why-black-families-have-struggled-for-decades-to-gain-wealth-2019-02-28" target="_blank">over time</a>."</p>
Assuring Access to Care<p>Finally, it is crucial that our response to the pandemic does not reverse the gains in health care access won under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed during the Obama administration.</p><p>Under the act, the uninsured rate for nonelderly Latinx people dropped from 33 percent in 2010 to 19 percent in 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. It dropped for African Americans from 20 percent to 11 percent, for American Indians and Alaskan Natives from 32 percent to 22 percent and for Asian Americans from 17 percent to 7 percent. But uninsured rates have either plateaued or crept up under the ongoing attacks on the ACA by the Republicans and the Trump White House.</p><p>This is the last thing that should be happening as African Americans, Latinx, and Native Americans are two to three times more likely to be in the <a href="https://nationalequityatlas.org/indicators/Working_poor" target="_blank">working poor,</a> and are still significantly more likely to be uninsured. It is the last thing needed in communities where poor health outcomes are baked into local environments.</p><p>It is also the last thing needed for hard working, but poorly paid Americans who are forced to live in affordable housing, or who must live in <a href="https://www.census.gov/newsroom/blogs/random-samplings/2016/09/grandparents-and-grandchildren.html" target="_blank">three-generation households</a>, with grandparents caring significantly for grandchildren while the mother in the middle goes off to work. This happens more frequent in families of color <a href="https://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/surveys_statistics/life-leisure/2019/aarp-grandparenting-study-african-american-black.doi.10.26419-2Fres.00289.003.pdf" target="_blank">and is especially visible</a> in many black neighborhoods badly wounded by mass incarceration and the flight of jobs in the last century. Five times more African American women than white women make it into their 40s having never married.</p><p>"Everybody is each other's lifeline," Bullard said. "The daughter may be working two jobs, but if she gets laid off, there's no paid leave, no health insurance. The grandmother may be 62 and not yet on Medicare. We know that children can be carriers without getting sick, and if the kid comes home and infects grandma . . . you kill grandma you kill childcare. The coronavirus shows what a house of cards these communities are."</p><p>The Trump administration's early complacency and confusion in its response to the pandemic led to a mixture of decisiveness and hesitance by churches, schools, concert halls and museums to close down. Who knows how much that chaos helped spread the virus? We may be all be separated by social distancing far longer than might have been necessary because of this president's distance from science.</p><p>That makes it all the more critical that the people who live the farthest from privilege and the closest to pollution not be lost in the effort to stem the pandemic and return to some sense of normalcy. An ominous sign that the White House could care less about this came in late March when the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it was suspending enforcement of environmental standards during the coronavirus crisis.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-announces-enforcement-discretion-policy-covid-19-pandemic-0" target="_blank">EPA said</a> it was trying to "protect workers." But with the EPA being run by a former coal lobbyist who wants to <a href="https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-02/documents/fy-2021-epa-bib.pdf" target="_blank">slash staff</a> down to 12,610 (the agency had as many as 17,000 employees during the Obama administration), it is likely very bad news for communities living next to industry.</p><p>A cliché among African Americans is that when white folks catch a cold, black people get pneumonia. Now that all of America faces down the pneumonia of COVID-19, America should not make the same mistakes it did in Katrina and Maria. Coronavirus is going to batter us far longer than the worst of hurricanes. We must not let environmental justice communities be flattened in the process.</p>
Colombia was the most dangerous nation in 2019 to be an environmental activist and experts suspect that conditions will only get worse.
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At the 56th Munich Security Conference in Germany, world powers turned to international defense issues with a focus on "Westlessness" — the idea that Western countries are uncertain of their values and their strategic orientation. Officials also discussed the implications of the coronavirus outbreak, the Middle East and the Libya crisis.
Germany Makes a Case for the Sahel<p>In the absence of African leaders, to bring the matter to the table, German Defense Minister <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/merkels-party-struggles-with-identity-crisis-in-wake-of-cdu-leaders-departure/a-52355906" target="_blank">Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer</a> called for an increased effort in the fight against Islamists in Africa. </p><p>"The Sahel is a key region for Europe, for example, when it comes to migration or the threat of terrorism," she said, adding: "That is why it is so important that Germany remains committed there, militarily as well."</p><p>Kramp-Karrenbauer's statement was encouraging to the Central African Republic's defense minister, Marie-Noelle Koyara. "I take this opportunity to thank the German government for making such a wise decision,"<em> </em>the CAR defense minister told DW<em>.</em></p>
World Bank Beefs up Support<p>A climate change panel discussion preceded the Munich Security Conference. It reminded the security and political heavyweights in Munich that the war in Darfur 17 years ago was triggered by the effects of climate change and claimed the lives of 300,000 people.</p><p>The conflict has since exacerbated environmental degradation in Sudan, forcing more than 2 million people into refugee camps.</p><p>Today, climate change-related conflicts are spreading rapidly in the Sahel region. </p>
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New Report Details How Fossil Fuel Industry's Climate Destruction Also Exacerbates Human Rights Abuses
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In addition to having a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities around the globe which have contributed the least to climate-warming fossil fuel emissions, the climate crisis has exacerbated the human rights violations already perpetrated by the fossil fuel industry, according to a new report.
By Julia Conley
Climate action leaders have warned for years that marginalized frontline communities in poor countries are already facing the most destructive impacts of the climate crisis, and a new study confirms those fears, detailing how women in those regions are at greater risk for violence and abuse as the environment is degraded.
Consideration of the climate crisis will be front and center in all of New Zealand's major policy decisions. The new rule means that any new proposal before the government that aims either to reduce emissions or has a collateral damage effect of raising emissions will need to go through a climate-impact assessment before it can be considered, according to The Guardian.
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