Thursday, October 4, 2012

Presidential Elections in the United States

Our group has begun our meetings again after a temporary summer break. But social justice issues are never far from our mind. Not only have we begun thinking about issues to explore and take action on in the remaining months of 2012 but we are also participating in becoming educated voters here in the United States.

Unfortunately we only have two major choices in the upcoming elections, which is usually the case. I say unfortunately because we, the people, should have more than two choices. I hope that one day in the elections we will see a strong third party presence; but till then, we must deal with what we have before us. 

Elections shouldn't be about who is running and who isn't. Elections shouldn't be about Democrats versus Republicans or conservatives versus liberals. Elections shouldn't be about two narrow issues: abortion and gay marriage. Elections should be about ALL the issues that affect our lives, including inequality, taxes, the economy, healthcare, education, employment, and foreign policy. 

So yesterday was the first presidential debate. Next week (October 11th) will be the the vice-presidential debate and a third presidential debate will be on October 16th. There will be another final presidential debate the following week. I hope you're watching. I hope you're also taking a closer look at what these candidates are presenting (the fine print) as part of their platform beyond what they say in the debates. 

We need to educate ourselves and make the best choice we can for our families and our communities as well as for our fellow citizens. It is not just about the must also be about the collective community, with social justice in mind. It is not about how the rich and the corporations will fare after the results of this election but how the poor, the working class, and the average American will fare after the results of this elections. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

So what is "fracking" and why is it important?

In case you were wondering why fracking is so important and why we are suggesting that fracking be banned, I thought we'd go over some issues as well as what exactly fracking is. "Fracking", otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, is a procedure to extract natural gas from the earth. While the procedure has been around for a while, there have been increasing concerns about fracking. Not only does fracking contaminate the environment around the fracking wells but it also contaminates the neighborhood's water supply. We have seen commercials and banners on buses that talk about clean natural gas, there is very little that is clean about how that gas is extracted. Fracking requires thousands of gallons of water mixed with hundreds of chemicals, many that are carcinogenic. This water mixed with chemicals does not disappear after fracking has occurred. It can evaporate into the atmosphere later falling down as acid rain; it can seep into the ground around it, contaminating the environment; it can spill into any rivers or streams nearby killing all manner of life that utilize it as a source of water and nourishment; and it can also seep into the drinking water system, contaminating tap water in unnatural ways, leading to health hazards for families in a variety of ways - either directly or through any livestock that are sold to the markets for food.

We watched the documentary called "Gasland" and it follows the journey of Josh Fox as he attempts to discover more about fracking and its consequences; his discovery is instigated by an offer from the oil and gas companies to lease his land in Pennsylvania because it is sitting above a large shale formation containing tons of natural gas. In the documentary, he interviews families around the U.S. who have had fracking wells installed on their properties and discovered dangerous consequences. Gas has so contaminated drinking water supplies that you can light your tap-water on fire by holding a match to the stream of water coming from the pipe.

Fracking in the state of New York will not only contaminate the environment but it will affect the New York watershed which supplies drinking water to approximately 9 million people in New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. As such, it is a pressing and urgent issue so I suggest you take a look at the previous blog entry about ways to voice your concern against fracking. I'm sure you would be distressed if you could not use the tap water to shower, wash dishes, and cook let alone drink.

I believe in reducing our dependence on foreign oil but I believe in doing it in a manner that is more sustainable and responsible. Natural gas is not the answer. And for those people who are concerned about "aesthetics", fracking wells certainly do not look attractive. We need to look into more sustainable solutions such as wind and solar energy -- solutions that do not harm the environment or the people who live in it. So if you don't care about what fracking does to your drinking water and the environment, then don't take any action; but if you do, read the other blog entry and take action. Please.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ways to voice your concerns about fracking

*Tell others about fracking and spread awareness of the issue

In New York:
*Petition: Tell Governor Cuomo to ban fracking

*Call an Assembly Member:

*Call Governor Cuomo's office:

*Post a message on Governor Cuomo's wall:

*Petition Congress:

Additional tools and information:

Here are some extra resources:
*Proposed FRAC act

*Map of gas drilling in PA
*Fracking incidents across the US
*Fracking ban upheld in some NY towns
*Fracking and the Safe Drinking Water Act
*Energy Policy Act of 2005 - includes exemption of fracking from safe drinking water act
*Article: Safety first, fracking second
*NY Times article on fracking
*Various fracking resources
*A million fracking letters
*Article: Cuomo's consideration of fracking
*Gasland movie website: includes various resources
*Article: earthquake in Ohio linked to fracking
*BBC: overview of fracking
*Food and water watch: fracking action center

Also, here is the proposed bill to ban fracking in NY: Bill

Please consider calling and/or writing your assemblyperson! You can find him/her on this website.

And finally, I just came across this sermon by Tim Keller on the topic of "Can Faith be Green?" In it, he gives Biblical support for protecting and caring for the environment. Check it out: Sermon

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Movie: The Corporation

Last Sunday we watched and discussed the movie called The Corporation. It gives you a well-rounded perspective on the formation of the corporation, how it gained the rights and privileges it enjoys in today's economy, and the problems that this particular institution creates in our society. It is very informative and thought-provoking. Here's a synopsis of the movie but you should watch it in its entirety.

Some of the action steps that came up in our discussion after the viewing of this movie included re-assessing what it is we purchase and why we purchase it not to mention where is the item we are purchasing manufactured, as well as sharing with friends and family about the issues surrounding U.S. consumers and the consequences of our increasing consumption. 

Up-coming Film Screenings

Up-coming film screenings in the Long Island area, in case anyone is interested and would like to attend:

Gasland: this Saturday (6/9)  from 7-9:15, in Babylon, free admission. The movie looks at the controversial issue of fracking.

The Harvest: next Wednesday 6/13 at 7:30 pm, in Huntington, $15 including a reception. This movie looks at the plight of migrant child farmworkers in the US. This film is actually from the same director as The Dark Side of Chocolate, and he will be there in person.

Human Rights Watch Film Festival - New York: June 14 - 28 at the Lincoln Center in New York City, sponsored by Human Rights Watch. Films feature a variety of human rights issues; go to the page for more information on the movies. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Social Justice in Action :)

Our group recently decided that we needed to include some action along with some of our discussions and our studies of various social justice issues. So Derek forwarded us some information about the National Association of Letter Carrier's Food Drive, and we decided to volunteer our time for a few hours. All the food collected by letter carriers (your friendly neighborhood postmen and postwomen) during their annual food drive on May 12th was to be sorted and distributed by Island Harvest (a Long Island food bank). For more information on Island Harvest you can click here. We all had a good time and were very happy to have spent this time serving our community.

Here are some photos of those in our group who were able to make it (oh, and my mom too who is visiting from California, hee hee):

All the food collected on Long Island is distributed via Island Harvest, a Long Island food bank. 

Neatly stacked and sorted boxes; we filled about 4 or 5 of these things (am I correct?). 

Our group taking a dinner break halfway through. 

Now you see them....

Now you don't. 

Our sorting and packing table

Busy checking, sorting, packing, checking, sorting, packing....rinse and repeat. :) 

Friday, March 16, 2012

HIV/AIDS Overview

Here's the link to the HIV/AIDS overview presentation on

Presentation via on HIV/AIDS overview

If you want to look up some of the data yourself, you can go to UNAIDS and select "Data & analysis" from the menu; then select "2010 Global Report" for the latest statistics as far as numbers of people living with HIV, separated by women and children, numbers of orphans, prevalence rate, new infections, etc. The report is rather lengthy but the data tables are at the end of the report in the Appendices. There's also a slew of information on the UNAIDS website regarding individual country progress reports and the like. UNICEF also collaborates with UNAIDS and focus their fight against AIDS largely on children, in accordance of course with the purpose of the organization.

To put all these statistics and information into context, a helpful documentary to watch is Madonna's "I Am Because We Are".

I didn't cover practical applications as part of my presentation but here are a few we discussed:

  • Volunteer for a local HIV organization 
  • Continue to educate yourself and people you know about the issues surrounding HIV and break down the myths that exist about the epidemic, particularly with associated stigma; this is really necessary in order to appropriately care for the people who are impacted by this epidemic
  • Programs that combat malnutrition, especially in children, or orphanages that cater to those children impacted by the AIDS epidemic could certainly use help, monetarily or otherwise (I invite people to put up links related to these in the comment section or a separate post - like the orphanage in China that came up in our discussion). 
  • Since there are a lot of orphans due to the epidemic, finding ways to support these children through the rest of the education and such are also things we could do. For example, the high school in Malawi which I mentioned in a previous comment to a post has students who cannot pay their school fees because they have become orphans; sponsoring one of these young people through school would be helpful. 
As I said, this topic is so broad and so complex that it is hard to cover everything in one discussion. This conversation is definitely something that can be continued. And as I think of more practical things we can do I will post those as well. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Continuing the conversation on trafficking

Here are the places that I mentioned where you can purchase goods made by women escaping prostitution:

Trade As One

Fair Trade Winds (they have a storefront in Stony Brook Village)

I have a question though- I recently heard about this organization from our school's health teacher. It aims to help provide opportunities for children and their communities, and it was founded by a 12 year old in Canada.
Has anyone heard of it? Is it effective? It isn't on Charity Navigator.

Monday, February 27, 2012

2/26/12: Economic Inequality

What is the issue?
- Although we may be among “the 99%” when compared to the rest of North Americans (only 4.5% of the world population), each of us is almost certainly in or near “the 1%” when compared to the rest of the world. This great disparity is true even when purchasing power (because of differences in cost of living) is taken into account. The great divide between the rich and the poor means that many people in the world do not have access to things like clean water, nutritious food, education, healthcare, entertainment, etc. It also means that power, particularly political power, is concentrated in the rich. Our wealth as North Americans seems to be based mostly on the simple fact that we were born here, not on all of our hard work. How different would things be for us if we were born in a slum in India?
- In the US:
o The wealthiest 20% of Americans own 84% of the national wealth, while the bottom 20% own only 0.1%:
o Upward mobility in terms of income seems to only be truly available to the top 1%:
- In the world:
o The median household income for the US, $51,914, is already at the top 1% of the world:
o Richest 1% make as much as the bottom 57%:
o While the average wealth of a North American is over $100,000, the average wealth of an Indian or many Africans is under $4000. However, if all of the world’s wealth was distributed among all 4.4 billion adults, each one would have $43,000. There is no reason for people to be extremely poor:
o World Bank comparison of GDP of various countries, adjusted to take into account differences in purchasing power:
What does the Bible say about economic inequality?
- The Sabbath Year (every 7th year) and the Year of Jubilee (every 50th year) were structures that God put in place to make sure that the poor were provided for, and that if anyone became very poor, they would have a “second chance.” Slaves were set free, debts were cancelled, and property was given back to its original owner. See Leviticus 25, Deuteronomy 15:1-18, and Exodus 23:10-12.
- In 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, we see the Macedonians giving with joy despite their extreme poverty—even begging to have the opportunity to give to people they don’t even know. Paul exhorts the Corinthians to give “so that there may be equality,” even if that means needing to be helped out themselves in the future. Would I be willing to give so much to others in need, even if it hurt my comfort and standard of living?? Our example for this kind of radical, selfless, extreme giving is Jesus, who “though he was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”
What can we do about this? (Just some ideas… I’d love to hear other ideas from people‼)
- Check out to put your income in a global perspective and see how much good you can do (and how little it would actually affect you) by just giving away 10% of your income.
- Here’s another good site, based on World Bank figures, to put things in perspective:
- Vote and contact representatives about issues related to poverty
- Consider supporting organizations that are working to cancel the debt of the poorest countries—just like what the Year of Jubilee was supposed to do:,
- Go on a “luxury fast.” Can you live on $5 or $10 per day for a week? This would take some creativity but would help us relate to our poor brothers and sisters who may not even make this much.
- Choose to cut out a specific, repeated expense (ex: coffee on the way to work; a retirement fund contribution; regular eating out; going to the movies; etc.) and give all of that saved money to a charity that directly helps the poor.
- Consider “downward mobility”—in a culture where we are always pushed to buy bigger, better, and newer things, how about downsizing so that we can give more away? Or setting a limit to our standard of living (say, the median US income or the median income for our area) and giving away whatever we make beyond that?