Category Archives: Politics

Climate Refugees and the Delusion of Isolation

One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic

Forced MigrationBe it from social unrest, economic upheaval, or environmental collapse, forced human migration is at unprecedented levels. According to the UNHCR, there are more than 65 million displaced people in the world today. Of those, more than 22 million are forced refugees. Over half are under 18 years old. Nearly 20 people are displaced from their homes every minute.

Sixty-five million people forced to flee their homes?

However disquieting, it almost doesn’t matter. As awful as that sounds, our emotional and mental resources aren’t naturally up to the task of finding empathy for so many. What researchers call “compassion fade” creates “psychic numbing.” Our minds are desensitized by numbers like these. It is, as research psychologist Paul Slovic calls it, the “arithmetic of compassion.”

Continue reading Climate Refugees and the Delusion of Isolation

Will the Push to Dismantle Obamacare Lead to States Passing Single Payer Bills?

The U.S. is the only one among modern, industrialized countries to not adopt some form of single payer healthcare. And Americans are paying dearly for it.

The U.S. is also the biggest spender on health care. An analysis by the Commonwealth Fund found that the U.S. spent 17.1 percent of its GDP on healthcare in 2013. That was much higher than what France spent at 11.6 percent of GDP and the U.K. at 8.8 percent.

High-priced healthcare

Private spending on healthcare is highest in the U.S. where the average spending per person in 2013 was $1,074 in out-of-pocket costs. France and the Netherlands spent less than one-fourth ($277 and $270, respectively).

The U.S. also spent much more than other countries in other private spending at $3,442 per capita, which was over five times more than Canadians spent at $654. Canada was the second highest spending country.

Riskier healthcare

A study comparing the U.S. and Canadian health care systems found that the Canadian system has “lower costs, more services, universal access to health care without financial barriers, and superior health status.” Researchers also found that Canadians have longer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates than Americans.

The U.S. has the highest rate of deaths related to health care or the lack of it than among comparable countries, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The disease burden is also higher in the U.S. and hospital admissions for preventable diseases occur more frequently than in comparable countries.

Increasing cost

Health care costs in the U.S. are expected to increase. Health Affairs projected that they will grow at 5.8 percent from 2015 to 2025, comprising 20.1 percent of the GDP.

The business world is taking note of the high health costs. Back in April, the American Sustainable Business Council launched the Business Leaders Transforming Healthcare campaign.

There are 128 companies supporting the campaign, ranging from small, mid-sized and large businesses in 30 states in sectors that include consumer products, finance, energy and real estate. The purpose of the campaign is to engage the business community in the U.S. to push for a single payer health care system.

Three states introduce single payer bills

California, New York and the state of Washington have all introduced single payer bills this year into their legislatures.

California

The Healthy California Act or SB 562, introduced in February, passed by the state senate in June. It now sits languishing in the Assembly.

The bill would create a Healthy California program to provide universal single-payer health care coverage. It would also create a health care cost control system.

The program would provide a “wide-range of medical benefits and other services.” It would incorporate in the “benefits and standards of other existing federal and state provisions,” including California’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medi-Cal.

The Healthy California board would use all “waivers, approvals, and agreements” so existing federal health care payments would be paid to the program.

 

Washington

Washington state House Bill 1026 would create a single-payer health care system by using the Affordable Care Act’s state innovation waiver 1332, which became available this year to state legislators.

With the waivers, states can use 95 percent of the federal funds provided to state residents for cost assistance to use for Affordable Care Act (ACA) alternatives. It would create the Washington Health Security Trust and create guidelines to establish board and advisory committees that would manage the health care of state residents.

New York

The New York Health Act passed in the state assembly in May. It would create a single payer health care system for the state of New York.

It would be paid for with payroll taxes and non-employment income such as capital gains. Introduced in February, the bill would seek “waivers and other approvals” that relate to federal programs such as Medicaid, the ACA, and Medicare.

An economic analysis of the bill found that the bill would save more than $70 billion in 2019, which is 25 percent of that year’s projected health care spending, with savings increasing over time. During the bill’s first year, it would save $44.7 billion, or almost $2,200 per person. The analysis also found that it would also create over 200,000 jobs, which would more than replace the jobs lost in insurance and billing.

Single payer healthcare makes sense

What states like those three understand is that a single payer system is not socialized medicine. Delivery of care would remain private, doctors would regain autonomy. The way to achieve universal, single payer health care in the U.S. just might be through the states. And if Republicans keep trying to dismantle the ACA, the states just might become emboldened to achieve what every other developed country has in place.

The way to achieve universal, single payer health care in the U.S. just might be through the states. And if Republicans keep trying to dismantle the ACA, the states just might become emboldened to achieve what every other developed country has in place.

And if Republicans keep trying to dismantle the ACA, the states just might become emboldened to achieve what every other developed country has in place.


Image credit: Michael Fleshman, courtesy Flickr

 

Remembering Berta on International Women’s Day

On International Women’s Day 2016 we mourn the loss of Berta Cáceres, a truly heroic environmental organizer. On March 3rd she was gunned down in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca in Honduras. Her assassins are still at large and unlikely to ever be brought to justice.

Berta was an indigenous women who championed land and resource rights. In 1993 she co-founded the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH). She was a dedicated protector of the natural world who bravely stood up to powerful corporations, corrupt governments and police with ties to death squads.

This powerful Lenca women challenged Sinohydro (the world’s largest dam builder), and the World Bank and succeeded in stopping the Agua Zarca Dam from being built. For this and other accomplishments Berta was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015.

In an interview with The Guardian after she won the award, Berta vowed to keep fighting and she urged others to join her:

“We must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no other spare or replacement planet. We have only this one, and we have to take action,”

Berta was repeatedly threatened yet she was undeterred by the risks to her personal safety. She persisted knowing all too well just how dangerous it was to speak truth to power in Honduras. Berta’s friend and fellow COPINH leader Tomás García was killed by a military officer in 2013.

A 2014 Human Rights report sites corruption, intimidation, a weak justice system and killings committed by security forces as some of the issues in Honduras. There have reportedly been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces and the nation is the deadliest country in the world for environmentalists. According to Global Witness, more environmentalist activists are killed in Honduras than in any other nation on earth except Brazil. Between 2002 and 2014, 111 environmental activists were killed in Honduras, many of whom were indigenous people.

The United Nations special rapporteur for indigenous rights, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz said:

“This shows the high level of impunity in Honduras. Beyond the high homicide levels in society, there is a clear tendency for indigenous campaigners and human rights activists to be killed.”

The killing of environmentalists in Honduras continued in 2015 and into 2016. If the past is any indication of the future, almost all of these murders will go unpunished.

Honduras may be among the worst countries for extra-judicial killings of environmentalists, but Brazilis the worst with 457 killings between 2002 and 2014. There are also many other countries thatpersecute environmentalists. In places like Peru and Cambodia environmentalists are routinely murdered or silenced by the courts.

It is assumed that Berta’s murder was connected to the COPINH protests in defense of the River Gualcarque and against the construction of a hydroelectric project by a Honduran company called DESA.

Since the military coup of 2009 there has been a dramatic increase in the number of mining operations this has resulted in a significant spike in energy demand which led the government to approve hundreds of dams. These dams destroy the land, poison the waterways and uproot entire communities. Those who challenge this authority risk being eliminated by a Honduran death squad.

There is complicity at all levels. Police told local reporters that the motive for Berta’s murder was robbery.
People know better and they are demanding an independent international investigation. They are also vowing to continue the struggle to honor Berta.

Thousands of Berta’s supporters gathered in front of her home yesterday to pay their last respects. According to Democracy Now, one of those present said:

“I’m saying goodbye to her for the last time, but the truth is that Berta hasn’t died. Berta lives on in our hearts. They haven’t actually killed Berta; they haven’t killed her. Berta is a seed that we’ve been left with. For us, that seed will germinate day after day, and we, as women, will continue the fight. We are not scared.”

David Gordon, executive director of the Goldman Prize, said:

“Berta’s bravery in the face of overwhelming repression will be a rallying call for environmental activism in Honduras.”

A powerful comment on the original Guardian said:

“It is not enough to be sorry for her friends and family — we need to think of ways large and small to step into the vacancy left by her murder. We need numbers to begin to make a dent in the arrogance that brings someone to believe that they can kill someone who stands in their way for more profit and power.”

In this video Berta makes a prophetic speech as she receives the Goldman Prize. She pledges her life to the cause, and calls us to join her in defense of the earth and its resources. Reviewing the tremendous arc of Berta’s life we are pulled by the gravity of the realization that if we fail to act we are complicit in the murder.

This post originally published in The Green Market Oracle
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Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Prachatai, courtesy flickr