Harboring the Good Life in the Name of Justice
I became a Catholic, as my Catholic friends say, ever since I read Laudato si’, which I believe Pope Francis wrote with his heart: “We are faced . . . with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.” Wow, deep. Now California Coastal Commission echoes with an environmental justice policy: “The Commission will use its legal authority to ensure equitable access to clean, healthy, and accessible coastal environments for communities that have been disproportionately overburdened by pollution or with natural resources that have been subjected to permanent damage for the benefit of wealthier communities.”
Is the figure pointing at us? Can we “harbor the good life” in the name of justice? I’d say, let’s start with some gifts and upgrades that feature less pollution and more fairness.
According to the California Air Resources Board, using a gas-powered lawn mower for one hour emits as much pollution as driving a 2017 Toyota Camry for 300 miles, using a gas-powered leaf blower for one hour emits as much pollution as driving a 2017 Toyota Camry for 1,100 miles. Good news: the South Coast Air Quality Control Board has incentive and exchange programs for residents and businesses to upgrade to electric equipment.
How about an electric vehicle? The calendar year 2019 lies on a sweet spot to get one, with options from 12 manufacturers. (Even Nissan’s Leaf offers 226-mile range.) You can still get up to $11,000 in tax credits and rebates. In addition, used EVs have become great bargains for non-commuters. EVs also free you from the oil change hassle. All you need to change are tires and windshield wipers.
If you already have an EV or a hybrid car, think twice about using Uber and Lyft, which are typically more polluting vehicles. These services have also led to more traffic. And in talking about teachers moonlighting in the gig economy, author Alissa Quart points out in her book, Squeezed, that “Uber is fueled in part by those trying to make ends meet in an overall economy that devalues their work. The sharing economy helps deny its participants basic worker rights.”
TIME magazine recently had an article entitled “A Mother’s Exposure to Pesticides During Pregnancy May Raise Children’s Autism Risk.” In it, it was noted that “scientists found that women who were pregnant and who lived within a 2,000-meter radius of a highly sprayed area were anywhere from 10% to 16% more likely to have children diagnosed with autism than women who lived in places farther away from sprayed areas.” Another revelation: “Unlike behaviors such as smoking or drinking alcohol, exposure to pesticides is usually not in people’s control. . . . People may be exposed to pesticides not just through spraying but also by eating produce that’s been treated with the chemicals.” So avoid the Dirty 12 in Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce by Environmental Working Group: strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery and potatoes.
Buying organic food is also about not enabling pesticide use, as well as caring for our friends in nature, such as bees.
Some organic products also have a fair trade seal. “A choice for Fair Trade Certified™ goods is a choice to support responsible companies, empower farmers, workers, and fishermen, and protect the environment,” according to Fair Trade USA.
The Catholic Health Association of the United States created an Easter card asking “How ‘Bad’ Can a Chocolate Bunny Be?“ Answer: “Many chocolatiers use cocoa harvested by child laborers. Choosing certified ‘fair trade’ chocolate helps ensure that children were not exploited in the production of the goodies.”
Enough said. Let’s go shopping for environmental and social justice. Happy Easter! Happy Earth Day!
Hoiyin Ip is often recognized on the street as the plastic lady for her cleanup work. But she likes to think of herself as a guardian of the ocean. She is often reminded of a quote by former California Coastal Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas: “The coast is never saved. It’s always being saved.”